Efforts to contain fall army worms, which have affected 133 083 farmers in the country, have been estimated at K9 billion to avert the threat of poor harvest of maize and other crops in affected districts.
In an interview in Lilongwe yesterday, controller of Agriculture Extension and Technical Services (Caets), Albert Changaya, said the threat already looms so large that maize, sorghum and millet harvests could be affected.
He said: “We already foresee that next year it will be disastrous because as at now about 20 districts have already been affected.”
The affected districts include Nsanje, Chikwawa, Mwanza, Neno, Phalombe, Chiradzulu, Blantyre, Thyolo, Mulanje, Zomba, Balaka, and Machinga in the Southern Region; Lilongwe West, Dedza and Ntcheu in the Central Region and Mzimba North, Rumphi, Nkhata Bay and Chitipa in the North.
According to Changaya, there is a knowledge gap in assessing the actual damage the army worms have done, but he said the problems could be substantial since the worms attack maize, sorghum and millet at different stages. He added that they are mobile.
He said: “We require about K9 billion to deal with this problem and, as government, we are looking at various ways and means the resources can be mobilised. The problem is compounded further because it is not only in Malawi, but the rest of Sub-Saharan Africa.”
In a separate interview, Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development Joseph Mwanamvekha said development partners have promised to assist Malawi with monetary resources.
He said: “The donors have promised to give us resources and, once that is done, we will prioritise purchase of all the needed chemicals that are found locally. As for the chemicals that are not locally available, we will have to airlift because the situation is urgent.”
President Peter Mutharika has declared the affected 20 districts as disaster areas.
In a statement released on Sunday and signed by presidential press secretary and spokesperson Mgeme Kalilani, the President said government, through the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development, in partnership with donors, is implementing numerous interventions to contain the spread and impact of the outbreak.
The President said 56 082 litres of pesticides have been procured and distributed to Agriculture Extension Planning Areas (EPAs) where smallholder farmers are accessing them for spraying the infested fields.
He said pheromone traps have also been procured in several districts to monitor the prevalence of the pest.
Farmers Union of Malawi (FUM) president Alfred Kapichira-Banda could not be reached for a fresh comment yesterday, but he is on record as having told The Nation’s Business News that the pests can damage the country’s economy because they have the potential to substantially reduce yields.