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Headsmut menace hits Ndaragwa farmers

Maize farmers in Karaguini village, Ndaragwa Constituency in Nyandarua County are counting losses after their maize plantations were hit by the Headsmut disease.

Farmers claim that the disease has left them counting big losses after investing heavily on their farms.

“We are saddened by the fact that we purchased fertilisers and employed extra labour to work on our maize farms, only for our crops to get infected few weeks before harvest. This is a huge loss for us.

To add salt to injury, we cannot feed the infected crops to our livestock since they also affect their health,” cried Felicinah Nyambura, a maize farmer.

Headsmut is a fungal disease that affects cereal crops, especially maize and sorghum. Infection by smut fungi starts in the soil and the fungi grows through the plant during the season.

The residents fear that the disease is just a ticking bomb and they will soon join thousands of Kenyans who suffer from hunger.

“I had to clear three acres of my maize plantation because of Headsmut. That maize could have sustained me and my family for more than a year but it’s now my fear that poverty might hit us in the coming days,” said Paul Muchemi, a famous maize farmer in the area.

The farmers have pointed a finger on Kenya Seeds Company, accusing the company of inability to fight counterfeit seeds circulating in the market.

“It is sad that Kenya Seeds Company, a company we’ve trusted since the time immemorial, has not been able to put up measures to fight the counterfeit cereal producers. We have always purchased cereals from them but in the recent past, the Headsmut nightmare has sent us questioning that trust,” said George Mwangi, a maize farmer in the area.

“We send an appeal to Kenya Seeds Company and the Ministry of Agriculture at large to come to our aid and restore the glory of this area as the leading maize producer in Nyandarua County,” he added.

However, The County Executive for Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries, Dr James Karitu, said there is no cause for alarm since the loss will not be a threat to food security in the area because Nyandarua is not a large-scale maize growing County.

“The Headsmut maize disease in not extremely serious in this region. The climatic condition in the County has limited the spread and that is why the effects are patchy,” Dr Karitu said.

Chief Officer in the Department, Dr Daniel Gikaara, added that they were investigating the cause of the disease to establish if it had anything to do with seeds.

By Paul Kinuthia


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