News / Africa

Mystery Maize Disease Strikes Kenya Farms

Mystery Maize Disease Strikes Kenya Farmsi
|| 0:00:00
X
Alex Pena
June 19, 2012 5:58 PM
A mysterious maize disease is sweeping through Kenya’s small farming communities. VOA's Alex Pena reports on the possible threat to Kenya's food security.

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

Mood Tense Ahead of Scotland Independence Vote

As race to persuade undecided voters continues, No voters say they believe life in Scotland will slowly improve and do not want to take a risk by endorsing independence More

South Africa’s 'Open Mosque' Admits Everyone, Including Critics

Open Mosque founder plans to welcome gay worshipers and allow women to lead prayers More

Ukrainian Activist in Despair About Future of Her Country

IrIna Dovgan, accused of being a spy and tortured by pro-Russian separatists, is appealing to UN Human Rights Council to support her country More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Wateri
X
September 17, 2014 8:44 PM
Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.
Video

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

China says its has sentenced three men to death and one woman to life in prison for a deadly knife attack in March that left more than 30 dead and 140 injured. Beijing says Muslim militants from China's restive western region of Xinjiang carried out the attacks. Now, more than six months after the incident, residents in the city are still coping with the aftermath. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Kunming.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid