News / Africa

Mystery Maize Disease Strikes Kenya Farms

Alex Pena
BOMET, Kenya - A maize disease is sweeping through Kenya’s small farming communities and, in the South Rift Valley, there are few who haven’t been affected.

Holding up evidence of his dying maize crop, a farmer in the Kenyan community of Bomet is the latest to become entangled in the maize mystery.  

“Everything is affected, The five acres [2 hectares], all the way," he says pointing toward his fields, "is all affected.”

The problem has prompted the local farming leader, assistant police chief and the CEO of a cereal growers association in Nairobi to visit the small farm.

“They gave us information, after the first rain in January, that it must be something with the rain," says Sigei Aron, the farming leader.

Assistant police chief Samsung Ngetich suspects the problem lies elsewhere. “I think there was a supply of the wrong seed,”

“How would all those companies give the wrong seed, at the same time, in the same area?” asks David Nyameino, who heads the cereal grower's association.

Nyameino, who considers himself a maize expert, examines the farmer's dry, yellowish crop.

“At this stage, this should be green maize," he says. "But there's no maize...this is what should have been maize, but it’s already dead.”

The Kenyan government estimates 40 percent or more of the South Rift Valley's maize crop has been affected.

Stopping the mysteriously spreading disease is Nyameino's number one priority.

“The area that gives Kenya real maize is in the North Rift," Nyameino says. "If this disease appears in the north rift, Kenya will become hopeless in terms of food...Kenyans believe maize is the food security for the country."

It’s unclear what makes the disease spread. Some believe it's the wind or insects, or both. Limited information is also a problem.

“What is lacking here is awareness of what should be done," Nyameino says, adding that the farmers are receiving contradictory information. "They are saying that they have been advised the stocks should not be fed to the animals, but the current information we have from the government is there is no problem to feed the animals with the stock.”

Aron, the local farming leader, planted a test field in search of answers. He successfully grew sweet potatoes here, and in the same field as the disease-infected maize, he grew millet, another staple food for Kenya.

Although that's a positive sign, assistant police chief Ngetich predicts the worst.

“We are fearing the children might not go to school next time, and also there will be no food for the community," he says. "So we need help, if there can be somewhere, so we can assist these people, to cut down this and maybe to plant short season crops to save their lives."

Meanwhile, the group continues to investigate, looking for a cause and trying to solve the mystery, in hopes of saving lives.

You May Like

Jihadist Assassin says Goal of Tunisia Murders Was Chaos

Abu Muqatil at-Tunusi’s remarks in a propaganda interview also cast light on attack on Bardo Museum More

Russia Denies License to Tatar-Language TV Station in Crimea

OSCE official says denial shows 'politically selective censorship of free and independent voices in Crimea is continuing' More

Kenyan Startups Tackle Expensive Remittances Through Bitcoin

Some think services could give Western Union a run for its money, though others say it’s still got a long way to go More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
For Obama, It's More Business Than Friendships With World Leadersi
X
Aru Pande
April 01, 2015 9:09 PM
The rift between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has put a spotlight on the importance of the American leader’s personal relationships with other world leaders and what role such friendships play in foreign policy. VOA's Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video For Obama, It's More Business Than Friendships With World Leaders

The rift between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has put a spotlight on the importance of the American leader’s personal relationships with other world leaders and what role such friendships play in foreign policy. VOA's Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video Buhari: Nigeria Has ‘Embraced Democracy’

Nigeria woke up to a new president-elect Wednesday, Muhammadu Buhari. But people say democracy is the real winner as the country embarks on its first peaceful handover of power since the end of military rule in 1999. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Abuja.
Video

Video Tiny Camera Sees Inside Blood Vessels

Ahead of any surgical procedure, doctors try to learn as much as possible about the state of the organs they plan to operate on. A new camera developed in the Netherlands can now make that easier - giving surgeons an incredibly detailed look inside blood vessels, all the way to the patient’s heart. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Latin American Groups Seek Fans at Texas Music Festival

Latin American music groups played all over Austin, Texas, during the recent South by Southwest festival, and some made fans out of locals as well as people from around the world who had come to hear music. Such exposure can boost such groups' image back home. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Stockton Community, Police, Work to Improve Relations

Relations are tense between minority communities and police departments around the United States following police shootings that have generated widely-publicized protests. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Stockton, California, where police and community groups are working toward solutions, with backing from Washington.
Video

Video Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedom

Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Report: State of Black America a 'Tale of Two Nations'

The National Urban League has described this year's "State of Black America" report as a "tale of two nations." The group's annual report, released earlier this month (March), found that under an equality index African Americans had only 72% parity compared to whites in areas such as education, economics, health, social justice and civic engagement. It’s a gap that educators and students at Brooklyn’s Medgar Evers College are looking to close. VOA's Daniela Schrier reports from the school.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials Underway in West Africa

Ebola has claimed the lives of more than 10,000 people in West Africa. Since last summer, researchers have rushed to get anti-Ebola vaccines into clinical trials. While it's too early to say that any of the potential vaccines work, some scientists say they are seeing strong results from some of the studies. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More