In Arusha reports have been unveiled that over 400 hectares of maize in various districts are already at the mercy of fall armyworms, a variety of the destructive pests.
The acting director for crop development in the Ministry of Agriculture, Beatus Malema told The Guardian yesterday that the government is aware of the situation and that efforts to contain it are ongoing.
“We sent 200 litres of pesticides to regions in the southern highlands. The problem is that the worms fly at a very high speed at night and there is no way we can stop them entering the country. However, the only way we can control them is to contain them physically,” he said.
The worms came into the country through Rukwa region in February last year, but entered the African continent through Ghana in 2016 from the United States and Brazil, he said, noting that by January 2017 the worms had entered six countries south of the Sahara.
The ministry has embarked on a campaign to create awareness to farmers to report to authorities whenever they see such worms in their area.
“The worms can fly at a speed of 1000 kilometers per hour and as we are speaking now they ae in Burundi, South Sudan, Kenya and Sudan,” the director specified.
Currently agricultural experts say that the deadly armyworms have attacked some villages in Arumeru District causing extensive damage in most maize fields.
They are now calling on farmers to start practicing crop rotation on their farms as a way of averting the invasion.
The experts have further opined that the famers ought to use Mupaclone and Duduba on their farms in mitigating the effects of fall armyworms’ invasion.
A plant protection officer with the Arusha District Council, Bahati Ndillahomba told The Guardian yesterday that the destructive pests were wreaking havoc on maize fields, posing threat to food security.
“This is a serious problem which if not well handled could get out of control,” the official cautioned.
Even though the maize planting season was yet to start in some parts of the region, farmers in Arusha district were now grappling with the threat and effects of the destructive pests.
Areas affected by the invasion include Nduruma, Ndoombo and Njiro, while others are Ngaramtoni, Kikatiti and Tengeru.
Entrance of fall armyworm (FAW) (Spodoptera frugiperda) in Africa in 2016 has raised concern of possible widespread damage of maize and other crops.
- borers are a common pest of maize throughout Africa, causing modest damage virtually every year. Armyworms, on the other hand, can devastate maize and other crops if not controlled at an early stage.
For his part, Erwin Kinsey, the director of ECHO East Africa Impact Center challenged players in the agriculture to come up with ways that will put an end the threat of the destructive pests.
Kinsey said the invasion should serve as a wakeup call on the farmers’ preparedness on averting the invasion.
“A stitch in time saves nine. We need to do something in saving our farmers' security,” he stated.
Unlike the African armyworm, the fall armyworm which is dispersed by wind, burrows inside maize stems and cobs making it difficult to detect and can lay up to six generations of up to 50 eggs in one location leading to rapid destruction.
When maize is attacked by the destructive pests it can lead to 100 per cent crop loss.
Last year, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) initialled two agreements of $2million with the then Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries to boost surveillance of fall armyworms.
Last month Mbeya and Songwe regions reported to have been attacked by the worms, which have already affected thousands of hectors of fields in neighboring countries like Malawi. About 20 out of 28 districts in the country have been badly hit.
Malawi President Arthur Peter Mutharika has declared a state of disaster in all districts affected by fall armyworms.