Fall armyworms outwit traditional healers

16Mar 2019
Gerald Kitabu
The Guardian
Fall armyworms outwit traditional healers

RECENT efforts by some farmers from a village in Mbeya region to engage the services of traditional healers and chiefs to stop the marauding fall armyworms (FAW) have hit a snag after the pests invaded their farms.

Latest reports from the ‘protected area’ show that recently planted maize farms have been attacked by FAW and the pests continue ravaging farms in neighbouring villages.

Farmers at Inyala village confirmed recently that they invited traditional chiefs to perform spiritual rites to put at bay the increasingly marauding pests but their rituals did not work out.

Speaking recently on the situation of the pests, the famers said that it is a tendency that when the pests spread in the farms, the farmers organize themselves and invite the chiefs to heal the land.

“The farmers gathered here to witness four strong chiefs from various ward of Inyala performing their spiritual rites. When they arrived here, they made a fence under the trees and started performing, praying for what has gone wrong so that the land could be cured, said Wasi Nteje, one of the farmers.

He said at the end of the spiritual rites, every farmer who was in the fence, was directed to close his or her eyes and move out of the fence  in a unique backward style.

The village chairman, Fidelis Mabena admitted to have seen the traditional chiefs performing spirit rituals saying they do it regularly when there is an outbreak of any disaster. However,  he said their spiritual rites do not help to kill off the pests.

“I saw them performing here but I don’t believe them because they have been doing it almost every year but the pests have never disappeared,” he said.

He called on government intervention saying that currently the situation is bad as the pests are increasingly multiplying.

Earlier the farmers said that they had applied traditional medicinal plants called in local tongues Utupa and Ukondo but did not help much to undermine the pests.

“These are certain leaves of plants. We crushed them and mix with a little water and then you take the water solution to pour in the maize. The FAW were killed but the problem is that this strategy is suitable for small farms,” explained Mabena.

The pest can survive all year round due to availability of host and favourable climatic condition. Favourable climatic condition and availability of hosts throughout the year plus ability to affect all stages of plant development makes the control of FAW difficult.

The Director of the Tanzania Agricultural Research Institute (TARI) - Seliani Centre, Dr. Joseph Ndunguru said that the farmers should adopt technology and adhere to agronomics.

Recently, the Minister for Agriculture Japhet Hasunga said that his priority in the agriculture sector is to make agricultural inputs are made available on time to ensure increased production.

Pests and crop diseases pose a big challenge so the government has directed agro-extension officers to make sure that effective pesticides reach the farmers in areas where the pests affect crops, he affirmed.