News / Africa

Deadly Maize Disease Threatens Kenya's Food Stability

A farmer gathers arid corn crops on his farm in Kwale, Kenya, January 27, 2009.
A farmer gathers arid corn crops on his farm in Kwale, Kenya, January 27, 2009.
Jill Craig
NAIROBI — Kenyan officials are scrambling to determine how to deal with a spreading deadly maize disease.  Fears are mounting as farmers report losing more than 60 percent of their usual yields.

Last September, farmers in Bomet, in the southern Rift Valley, reported that a disease was destroying their maize (corn). By January, researchers found the disease, "maize lethal necrosis" that makes the maize plant turn yellow and dry up, was spreading to other areas of the Rift Valley and into central and eastern Kenya.

According to Food and Agriculture Organization crop production officer Paul Omanga a survey conducted in July indicated more than 64,000 hectares were affected and up to 80 percent of the crop was ruined.

"So if this disease is not controlled, it will affect maize production in the country significantly," he said.

Kenya Agricultural Research Institute principal researcher Muo Kasina serves on the task force managing this problem.  He says farmers are suffering from plummeting yields.

"The disease itself is completely finishing the crops . You may get less than 40 percent yields.  So it is very devastating, as of now," he said.

Maize lethal necrosis is the result of the combination of maize chlorotic mottle virus and sugarcane mosaic virus.  Sugarcane mosaic virus has previously appeared in Kenya, but maize chlorotic mottle virus has not, according to researchers.

Kasina says there is no known precedent for treating the disease.

"The problem is we do not have experience at all with this disease in Kenya.  So, for me, I really have no idea at all what I expect to see in the future," he said.

Researchers are trying to determine whether the disease is seed-born or if it is transmitted by insects, before they can decide the best course of action.

In the meantime, Omanga says they are educating farmers about the importance of crop rotation.  But he says more extreme action must be taken if they suspect the disease is present.

"Another one is ensuring that in an affected field, you destroy all the plants," he said. "You either burn them or made fodder for livestock.  The stems, the leaves, you make fodder for livestock.  But you should not leave those affected plants to stay in the field because the virus will remain in that field to affect another crop."

Omanga says that national food stability is the overarching concern.

"This [is] causing some concern because maize is the staple food and any threat to maize production is a threat to food security in Kenya," he said. 

The U.S. Agency for International Development reports the lowest income quarter of the Kenyan population spends 28 percent of its income on maize.

You May Like

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

US Urges Restraint in Hong Kong Protests

Protesters angered by Beijing's decision to only approve candidates that it sanctions for Hong Kong's leadership elections in 2017 More

Archive of Forgotten UCLA Speeches Offers Snapshot of History

Recordings of prominent voices in social change, politics, science and literature from 1960s, early 1970s now available on YouTube More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenyai
X
Gabe Joselow
September 29, 2014 6:20 PM
Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Video

Video Reconstruction? What Reconstruction? Life After War in Gaza

It’s been a month since Israel and the Palestinians agreed to a ceasefire to end 52 days of an air and tank war that left 60,000 homes in Gaza damaged or destroyed and 110,000 homeless. Sharon Behn reports that lack of reconstruction is leading to despair.
Video

Video US, Saudi Arabia and UAE Hit Islamic State's Oil Revenue

The United States, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have bombed oil facilities operated by Islamic State militants in Syria. It was a truly collaborative effort, with the two Arab countries dropping the majority of the bombs. The 12 refineries targeted were estimated to generate as much as $2 million per day for the terrorist group. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb has the story.
Video

Video Russia's Food Sanctions Raise Price Worries, Hopes for Domestic Production

Russia retaliated against Western sanctions imposed for its actions in Ukraine by halting food imports from the West. The temporary import ban on food from Australia, the European Union, Norway and North America has Russian consumers concerned that they could face a sharp increase in food prices. But in an ironic twist, the restrictions aimed at the Kremlin have made Russia's domestic food producers hopeful this can boost their business. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Washington to Pyongyang: 'Shut This Evil System Down'

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is calling on North Korea to shut down prison camps and other human rights abuses following a United Nations Commission of Inquiry into "widespread and systematic human rights violations." VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid