The Ministry of Agriculture is racing against time to contain a possible outbreak of red locust which if left until the onset of this yearâ€™s rains would degenerate and destroy crops, including maize, the countryâ€™s staple grain.
Initial assessments conducted in March this year by the International Red Locust Control Organisation for Central and Southern Africa (IRLCO-CSA) indicated that Malawi has a high concentration of red locust in the Southern Region.
The locust is decidedly strong in the Lake Chilwa and Chiuta Plains, an area identified by IRLCO-CSA as an outbreak hot spot for red locust in Malawi and Mozambique.
â€œWe are currently waiting for assessment report from IRLCO-CSA, but we are racing against the onset of the first rains that are very close,â€ said Sara Tione, Ministry of Agriculture public relations officer, in an interview with the Malawi News Agency (Mana). â€œYou cannot travel on foot to the breeding area. You need a helicopter to take you there which is provided by our counterparts at IRLCO-CSA.â€
But Tione was non-committal on the availability of environmental-friendly pesticides such as Green Muscle and Metalizium, chemicals used in locust containment exercises.
In August this year, Ken Ndalama, country representative for IRLCO-CSA, said the exercise was delaying due to inavailability of the organisationâ€™s helicopter.
Areas usually prone to red locust outbreaks include Wembere Plains, Malagarasi Basin, Iku-Katavi Plains and Rukwa Valley in Tanzania, Mweru wa Ntipa and Kafue Flats in Zambia and Buzi-Gorongosa Plains in Mozambique.