Pests have attacked 40 hectares of tomato gardens at Jenda in Mzimba District, a development that has worried 1 143 farmers growing the crop in Champhira Extension Planning Area (EPA).
Speaking during an interactive meeting organised by Civil Society Agriculture Network (CisaNet) with funding from Irish Aid, one of the affected farmers, Zondwayo Jere, said the pest called leaf miner affects both the leaves and the fruit.
He said his one hectare has been affected and he has no hope of a good harvest this growing season.
Jere said: “I have been growing tomatoes since 1999. All these years, I have been generating income that has enabled me to construct three good houses and to pay school fees for my four children.
“However, this growing season things will not be the same as my field has been attacked by the pest.
“The yields will be poor and I will make losses. I spend K30 000 (about $48) for the pesticide every week, but the pests continue terrorising my garden. I doubt if I will raise school fees for my children this year.”
Agricultural extension development officer for the area, Melody Banda, said the pest originated in Tanzania.
CisaNet national coordinator Tamani Nkhono-Mvula asked responsible stakeholders to increase awareness among farmers on how to fight against the pest.
He said: “Farmers should be aware of causes, symptoms and prevention of this pest. Spraying chemicals to tomatoes can be expensive and hazardous; hence, experts in agriculture should come up with sustainable ways of controlling pests.
“Furthermore, we should have agriculture experts at all our borders to control ‘import’ of crop pests and diseases.”