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Farmers Using Ash As Fall Armyworms Devastate Maize Crops in Gulu

With no options due to lack of agricultural extension workers and entomologists to offer advice to the farmers over the worms in their areas, farmers in their wisdom have locally started using ash with intentions to prevent the damage of the worms on the crops as well as contain further attacks.
The fall armyworms on a maize crop in Paibona Sub County. Photo by Emmy Daniel Ojara

Audio 7

Farmers in Paibona Sub County, Gulu district have resorted to using ash to contain the devastation of fall armyworms (FAW) in the maize gardens. 

The worms have attacked more than 200 acres of maize crops in the area in two weeks.   

FAW also known as a butterfly is a pest of crops that attacks over 80 varieties of crops including maize, sorghum, sugarcane, cotton, rice and wheat among others.   

It feeds on large numbers on the leaves, tassels, stems and reproductive parts of a plant that is at least two weeks old.    

Their damage appears as ragged-edged holes on leaves, tassels and severe feeding may give the appearance of corn that has been damaged by hail.   

With no options due to lack of agricultural extension workers and entomologists to offer advice to the farmers over the worms in their areas, farmers in their wisdom have locally started using ash with intentions to prevent the damage of the worms on the crops as well as contain further attacks.   

However, most of them say that the measure has yielded no fruits yet they are unaware of any means to contain the attacks of FAW on their crops.   

Allan Okumu, one of the farmers says that the FAW has attacked four acres of his maize crops but due to limited preventive measures he has resorted to applying ash on the affected crops to contain the damage and further attacks. 

According to Okumu, ash is locally known as a toxic material that destroys cycles of worms, pests and insects. This explains why he has resorted to using it on a maize crop garden.   

He applies the ash by using hands or mixes with water and uses brooms to apply on his crops. A practice he says is very hectic and tedious. 

//Cue in: ‘’pole en kwiti…   

Cue out: …loka mop e.’’//   

Eng. Translation:  

‘’Mostly the worms are attacking maize crops, I planted three acres and mine was attacked about a week ago. My maize is about three to four weeks. We are applying ashes basing on guidance from my colleagues but there is no change. We have no idea about the strange thing.’’

Denis Kareem Komakech, another farmer is using the same method with hopes of preventing worms from further spreading in the three acres of three weeks-old maize crops.   

Though the method is unhelpful, Komakech says that he is unaware of any other measure to prevent FAW from spreading into his crop gardens due to the lack of knowledge that has been given by extension workers.

Luo Byte:  

//Cue in: ‘’gini wat ye…   

Cue out: …bot ngato mo.’’//   

Eng. Translation. 

‘’We are applying ash on the five acres, the maize is three weeks old, we didn`t get any guidance from anyone but it is a believe that ash prevents pests and insects.’’


Richard Watmon, the Outgone Paibona Sub County estimates that more than 200 acres of maize crops have been destroyed by the fall armyworms yet farmers are unaware of its preventive measures.   

He says that the Sub County has been operating without any agricultural extension workers since it was carved out of Awach Sub County in 2018 during the creation of the new administrative units.  Luo Byte:  

//Cue in: ‘’eno ni dok…   

Cue out: …gi niang exactly.’’//   

However, Richard Sejjoba an agriculturalist from Agrithon in Gulu explains that Fall Armyworm is a dangerous crop pest that massively destroys the inner parts of the crops which give them the energy to grow.  

//Cue in: ‘’the impact on…     

Cue out: …fall armyworm early.’’//

He advised that once their crops are infested by the pests, farmers should spray their crops with recommended chemicals, and can also hand-pick. He further rooted the need for early planting and pests’ resistant crops. 

//Cue in: ‘’you can use…     

Cue out: …like longe8, longe10.’’//  

The infestation of Fall Armyworms was 2016 registered in Uganda.  The Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) report of 2018 says that up to 17.7 million tonnes of maize could be lost annually due to FAW on the African Continent.

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