Rice farmers in Mbazi sector, Huye District in the Southern part of the country are concerned about a recent outbreak of pests attacking rice crops, which could lead to low yields if not contained.
The pest, which has so far infested an estimated 5,000 hectares of rice out of less than 100 hectares during last year’s season, is attacking much worse now.
Currently, about 200 hectares have been damaged in Ndobogo Marshland, Mbazi Sector in Huye District.
According to experts, the suspected pests are gall midge (Diptera), Isoptera (termites), which leads to bud borers, and leaf feeders.
According to Huye District agronomist Rene Aimable Nsengiyumva, this time the pests attacked rice at a large scale, but they are working closely with farmers to prevent the pests from spreading to other areas in the district.
“The greatest challenge is that most farmers are misinformed about prevention measures before the pests show up in their farms and some are negligent about buying insecticides,” said Mr Nsengiyumva.
He added that regular attention by farmers would enable them to identify any unusual activity and would ensure early response to attacks.
They are engaging in a new pest control approach combining several tactics including biological, chemical and cultural control methods and insect resistant rice varieties for control and management of pest populations.
However, farmers say the price of pesticides is not an issue, but rather failure to access enough information on the reliable types of pesticides despite regular sensitisations from the Rwanda Agricultural Board.
The price of pesticide ranges between Rwf1,500 to Rwf10,000 depending on the size of the farm.
Pest attacks on crops have not been a common phenomenon in the country, but due to the alarming outbreak in parts of the southern province, there is a need for farmer education and community action in curbing the spread of pests to other parts of the country.
However, when contacted for a comment, officials at the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources said though cereals are attacked by many pests, attacks on rice farms have not been reported over the past decade.
“We didn’t know about the issue but we are going to take immediate action to find out what could be the nature of the pests attacking the rice farms before they spread to the entire country,” said the agriculture ministry in response to our request for a comment.
However, in a recent interview with the Vice Mayor in charge of Economic Affairs at Huye District, Andrew Kamana said they are concerned about the pests because they could affect food security.
“This outbreak is actually not new to the district but was at a very low rate and farmers could fight it through co-operatives and were buying insecticides as a group without government intervention,” he said.