A new tool for farmers facing the Fall armyworm: radio


In the Central and Western region of Uganda, farmers are busy with the first weeding of the season. As they head into their maize fields, they will be anxious to see just how the plants are growing — and how many have been affected by the Fall armyworm.

Farmers in Uganda have been dealing with the Fall armyworm infestation since last year. This invasive pest originally arrived in West Africa in 2016. Before then, the caterpillar was native to North and South America.

This hungry, hungry caterpillar is expected to cause more than $2-billion of damage to maize crops in Africa per year.

But farmers in the Central and Western regions have a new tool to help them manage this foreign invader: radio.

With our partners Radio Kitara and Radio Simba, we are on air again to talk about the Fall armyworm. As the farmers head into their fields this week, the radio shows are talking about how to identify the Fall armyworm, and particularly how it is distinctive from the African armyworm or other pests common to the region.

This is part of a 10-week radio campaign about the Fall armyworm, the second phase of our project that aired similar information over eight weeks from October to December.

After talking about identifying the Fall armyworm, farmers will learn how to monitor their fields and how manage the Fall armyworm if they do find the caterpillar has invaded. This includes using both biological and chemical methods of control, and the radio programs will also discuss the safe use of chemical pesticides.

Farmers are advised to monitor the damage in their fields and only use control methods when the damage is severe. This can be done by checking the damage on 10 consecutive plants in 10 areas of the field to estimate what percentage of plants have been affected.

Many farmers have chosen to handpick the larvae and eggs off maize plants, which can be an effective control method. The Fall armyworm multiplies quickly, laying up to 2,000 eggs in their lifetime. By destroying the eggs, the Fall armyworm population can be kept at bay.

The first Fall armyworm radio program was very popular with farmers. Nearly 6,000 interacted with the radio program, responding to poll questions during the project.

Charles Wandera is a farmer in Masindi district in Western region, Uganda. He tuned in to the first radio program on Radio Kitara. He told us, “All along we have been lacking information to fight the armyworm but from the time we got a chance with this project with Radio Kitara, we are getting information Mondays and Fridays. In a week, we are getting the information twice.”

With another growing season in full swing, we are back on air to support farmers and we expect that even more will tune in to this radio series to give themselves the best chance of a good maize harvest at the end of the season.

Hear from the farmers who benefited from our first radio series in Uganda about Fall armyworm.

This project is supported by CABI, the Centre for Agriculture and Biosciences International.

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