Livestock Farmers in Nwoya Panic As African Armyworms Ravage Crops, Pastures

The destructive caterpillars invaded the Sub-counties of Lungulu, Got Apwoyo, and Purongo at the start of the farming season last month.
African Armyworms. courtesy Photo
Livestock farmers in Nwoya District are struggling to graze their animals following the invasion of African armyworms. 

The destructive caterpillars invaded the Sub-counties of Lungulu, Got Apwoyo, and Purongo at the start of the farming season last month.

Geoffrey Ojok, a farmer and Local Chairperson of Layila Village in Got Apwoyo Sub-county says the caterpillars have so far destroyed five acres of finger millets and ground nuts his family planted.  He says the family had injected 2 million shillings into the agricultural venture but lost it all after the worms destroyed them. 

Ojok also notes that green pastures for feeding his goats have become very scarce since most of them have been eaten up while the available green grasses have become a nesting ground for the worms.

“I can’t take my goats for grazing now because there is no green pasture the caterpillars haven’t invaded in this village. The only safe area is around the swamps which are very far from my home,” Ojok says. 

He says their efforts to spray against the pests using pesticides haven’t yielded positive results in eliminating them.

Francis Okumu, another livestock farmer in the same village equally says his animals cannot find pastures since the worms have eaten most of the fresh grasses in the area.

Okumu says he has been trekking for long distances in areas where the worms haven’t invaded to graze his herds of 20 goats.

“If this continues, we shall have nowhere to graze our animals, and eventually they will die because they (animals) can’t eat grasses infested with worms. We need urgent government help,” He says. Okumu is among hundreds of farmers in Got Apwoyo who have already lost hundreds of acres of crops to the destructive pests within a month only.

Dr. James Ukwir, Nwoya District Senior Production officer acknowledged the invasion of the pests saying besides pastures, they are destroying cereal food crops like rice, Maize, and Finger millets.

He says by Monday this week, farmers had reported the destruction of 967 acres of crops in the three sub-counties.

For instance, in Purongo Sub-county, the worms destroyed 45 acres of rice, 5 acres of Maize, and 54 acres of Maize crops while in Lungulu, 120 acres of rice, 520 acres of maize, and 71 acres of finger millets have been destroyed.

According to Dr. Ukwir another 82 acres of maize and 21 acres of rice crops have also been eaten by the worms in Got Apwoyo Sub-county.  He however anticipates that the magnitude of destruction may be worst in the coming days and appealed to the government to intervene.

“We have already written to the government about the invasion of the caterpillars. We are also sensitizing the community on how they can manage the pests through spraying with Rocket pesticide,” Dr. Ukwir said.

Omoro District Production officer Godfrey Jomo Oyet says a case of armyworm invasion has been registered on Sunday in Lakwana Sub-county in Lujorongole Parish adding that their team has been sent on the ground to assess the magnitude of destruction.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry And Fisheries-MAAIF has indicated that the worms have now spread to 38 districts in the country and affected more than 1,400 farmers on 5,415 hectares of land.

The Ministry is now encouraging farmers to use 100-120 Mls Cypermethrin 5EC insecticide mixed in 20 liters of water to spray their crops against the worms.

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