Farmer Hudson Lumosi from Lugari Sub-county in Kakamega County retired from teaching and ventured into agriculture, which he says is his long-standing career.
Mr. Lumosi, who owns a four-acre piece of land at his home in Angayu Village of Chekalini Ward, loves growing maize. He has been farming the staple crop for as long as he has been a teacher, but the returns have not been so encouraging.
The former primary school teacher, like any other small-holder maize farmer in Western Kenya, has a myriad of problems to deal with: fall armyworms that are capable of plundering produce to 100 percent, striga weed that eats into the nutrition of the crop, not forgetting maize lethal necrosis disease (MLND) that attaches itself to the leaves and hinders photosynthesis.
Lumosi’s biggest setback has been fall armyworms, which he says are prevalent in Chekalini Ward and have rendered maize farming almost fruitless. He managed to get only 11 bags from one acre last season.
Before meeting Elijah Ngaywa, a research extension officer from PlantVillage, a non-governmental organization that offers extension services to small-holder farmers n Africa and across the world, Mr. Lumosi had been using “crooked” methods to control the invasive pest.
The methods included the use of ash, neem-based solutions, detergents — all sprayed on the crops, and chemicals bought in agro vets, which have also proved futile due to the ease of the pests to develop resistance against them; not to mention how they are toxic to the soil as well as plant, animal and human life.
“The methods proved challenging and harmful to use. For example, using pepper could be dangerous because it can easily get into your eyes while spraying. Chemicals can penetrate the body and cause stomach problems and pose a big risk to cancer,” he said.
Parasitoids for fall armyworm
Elijah Ngaywa introduced Mr. Lumosi to a more effective and friendly solution to fighting fall armyworms — parasitoids.
Mr. Hudson thus allowed the research expert to use an acre of his land for testing the use of parasitoids, a biological weapon that encompasses introducing parasitized eggs of fall armyworms to a field early in the season.
The released eggs, which are cultured in a laboratory, hatch and grow into pupae within five days. The pupae eventually feed on the fall armyworm eggs and grow into harmless caterpillars and then moths.
“With the introduction of parasitoids, the one-acre piece of land got rid of fall armyworm. In fact they “migrated” to the neighboring field which was not treated with parasitoids. When I was doing scouting, I never found any of them,” he says.
Farmer Lumosi says he now expects 40 bags from the one acre treated with parasitoids. The testing field has made him a role model in the village and farmers as well as agricultural officers come to him requesting a sip from his cup of knowledge.
“The weight of my maize is good. The harvest is promising. When I get 40 bags, now, where will poverty come from? I have addressed unemployment because I have and will put people here and pay them. I have also addressed food insecurity,” he says.
Mr. Hudson concludes by saying that using the right technology is more important than having a huge piece of land that has not been put into proper use.
- Watch Lumosi talk about his tremendous success below.
Sam Oduor is the editor-in-chief at the Western Kenya Times who leverages the power of the Internet in telling stories that shape opinions.