By Ronald Ssekandi MUKONO, Uganda, (Xinhua)
-- Ernest Bongole, a farmer in the
central Uganda district of Mukono, almost lost his entire one
acre maize garden to the devastating fall army worm (FAW).
anticipated that he would have a bumper harvest so that he could
give some of the maize to the school where his children go.
affected my maize garden a lot, I struggled to get enough maize
to give to the school to allow my children to study,” he told
Xinhua on Monday.
Out of desperacy,
Bongole resorted to the use of pesticides, which had side
effects on his skin as he did not have protective gear.
He is among the 3.6
million farmers or 9 percent of the country’s population that
lost an estimated 450,000 tonnes of maize or an equivalent to
192 million U.S. dollars during the first cropping season of
2017, according to government figures.
The country on
Monday launched the FAW Monitoring and Early Warning System (FAMEWS),
a mobile application that can be used as a monitoring and early
Speaking at the
launch in the central Ugandan district of Mukono, Charles Owach,
an official from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO),
said the move is critical in ensuring food security and economic
livelihood of farmers.
He said FAMEWS works
as an early warning system that policy makers and government can
use to warn farmers and also devise means of combating the worm
that eats the leafy parts of crops like maize and rice.
Owach handed over
126 smart phones installed with the application to the Ugandan
government, noting that they will be distributed to 100 villages
across the country, especially in 15 districts that have had the
Owach said it is a
pilot project that will eventually be rolled out to all parts of
the country to curb the threat that the worm presents to food
John Bahana, a
specialist in FAW, said that working through farmer groups,
their leaders would be provided with the phones. When they open
the application, the feed in the data from the garden for
instance how many worms they have seen and then send the
information to a national data center.
At the data center,
the information will be analyzed and basing on the results,
appropriate actions will be taken at country and continental
Bahana said that
when the devastating transboundary caterpillars pupate into a
moth, they can fly up to 500 km in a day depending on the speed
He said each moth
has the capacity of laying over 2,000 eggs which can hatch in a
FAO also gave
farmers traps lured with a chemical that attracts male months.
Bahana said once the
farmers notice an increase in the number of the moths trapped,
they have to start managing their gardens by spraying with
Tibeijuka, commissioner for crop protection at the ministry of
agriculture, animal industry and fisheries said there are other
methods that are still under investigation to fight the FAW.
He said preliminary
research has showed that there are flies that feed on the worm
and therefore can help in decimating it. Research is also
ongoing on fungus and nematodes.
He urged farmers
that although the destruction rate of the FAW has reduced, they
should not get tired of monitoring their gardens, noting that
once they notice that 2 of 10 crops are affected, they must
destroy the worm.