Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development says the fight against the fall army worms is greater than initially anticipated and that the pest is “here to stay”.
Briefing the media in Lilongwe on Friday, the ministry’s controller of agriculture extension and technical services Albert Changaya said the Southern Region is the worst hit since the pest migrated into the country during the 2016/17 growing season.
He said: “As of this week, we are talking of a combined total of 165 187 hectares for Machinga and Blantyre agricultural development divisions [ADDs] compared to the 206 000 hectares under attack across the country.”
Changaya said his ministry will relentlessly coordinate efforts to help farmers contain the outbreak in the country which continues to cause havoc for the second consecutive growing season, mostly attacking cereal crops, especially maize—the country’s staple grain.
To date, about 2 000 pheromone traps have been installed nationwide to help communities forecast fall army worm outbreaks.
When President Peter Mutharika declared the fall army worm a State of National Disaster last December, about 35 000 hectares were said to be affected.
Changaya said the threat is huge and that being the first time in recent years the pest has hit this side of Africa, it remains a learning curve.
In a separate interview on Sunday, the ministry’s director of crop development Godfrey Ching’oma said it was tricky to estimate the impact the pest may have on the final national harvest.
The ministry has since bought 37 000 litres of insecticides to be freely distributed to farmers through their respective extension planning areas (EPAs) while donors have pledged an additional 3 500 litres.
Scientists say the pest, first discovered in the Americas, came to Africa through the west coast countries of Nigeria, Benin and Sao Tome. n