Government has put in place measures to contain a fall armyworms outbreak that has invaded 20 districts in the country.
Minister of Labour, Sports, Youth and Manpower Development Henry Mussa made the assurance in Parliament. He was responding on behalf of the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development to a question from Dowa South East member of Parliament (MP) Harry Chimpeni who had asked what government is doing to address the spread of armyworms in the country.
“Is the government aware that armyworms have spread across the country? Because if this is not taken care of, we will be in serious problems,” said Chimpeni.
In response, Mussa said government is aware of the problem which was not as devastating as many people are thinking.
According to Mussa, despite that 20 districts have been affected, government is on top of the situation and the insect is not expected to spread any further.
“The hectarage that has been affected is mild and already pesticides are being distributed and we have radio programmes to create more awareness to farmers to enable them to deal with the pest,” he said.
Salima Central MP Felix Jumbe (independent) said the pest is so devastating that there is a need to scale up awareness messages because most farmers are not aware of the pest and its impact.
“It is called an American stalk borer and experts are suggesting that the pest might have spread because of imports, conservation agricultural practices as well as lack of crop rotation. All these are just thoughts out there,” he said.
According to Jumbe, certain agricultural practices like conservation agriculture need to be revisited because the pest lives in stalks and if they are heaped together, the pest can easily transfer and affect a living maize stalk.
“Once crops are not rotated, pests and diseases can continuously attack that plant. But if there is a change, the cycle can be broken and that is what farmers need to know out there in order to control the spreading of the insect,” he said.
The affected districts are Rumphi, Ntcheu, Blantyre, Nsanje, Chikwawa, Neno, Chiradzulu, Phalombe, Mangochi, Balaka, Lilongwe, Dedza, Kasungu, Dowa, Mchinji, Mzimba, Chitipa, Karonga, Nkhotakota and Salima.