Locally, we are using everything possible such as pounded Neem leaves and concoctions made of sugar and soup from usipa fish as these attract ants that eat the fall armyworm (FAW). We also use soil to suffocate its lifecycle, says Wazili White, Village Civil Protection Committee member at Mgwindi Village in Traditional Authority (T/A) Kachindamoto in Dedza.
FAW is originally from South America. It is a pest that has potential to damage and destroy a wide variety of crops, resulting in huge economic damage.
Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development spokesperson Osborne Tsoka says FAWs have attacked 380,000 hectares of maize out of 1.7 million hectares of cultivatable area, representing 22.35 percent nationwide.
“FAW is a wild host, attacking beans, groundnuts, cotton and cereals. So far, it has now turned into a regional problem,” Tsoka explains.
As part of resilience building in the wake of climate change and in dealing with emerging issues such as the spread of FAW, the International Non-Governmental Organisation (Ingo) Consortium led by Save the Children International (SCI) is implementing the programme Breaking the Cycle of Humanitarian Assistance through Enhancing Resilience and Shock- Responsive Capacity in 10 districts in the country with support from UK Department for International Development.
The consortium comprises seven organisations, namely SCI, United Purpose, Coopi, Goal Malawi, Oxfam, Concern Worldwide and Centre for Environmental Policy and Advocacy.
The programme aims to “end hunger, achieve food security and improve nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture,” in line with sustainable development goal two. This is done through strengthening the absorptive and adaptive capacity of households, communities and government systems in order for them to better prepare for and respond to climate-and weather-related shocks.
The interventions being spearheaded include improving crop productivity and diversification through provision of certified seeds, catchment conservation, climate smart agriculture and pre-and post-harvest pest and disease control.
FAW threatens to undermine the gains made in the programme’s target districts. To this end, Ingo Consortium is working with UN Food and Agriculture Organisation in training farmers in stopping its spread through provision of pesticides and protective gear.
Farmers and extension staff are continually being enlightened on the pest ecology to create the much-needed awareness on affected farming households. Farmers have also been exposed to control measures, timing of pesticides and handling.
So far, 1,075 lead farmers have been trained in safe use and handling of pesticides and proper disposal of containers after use. The trained farmers lead on pesticide spraying in their respective communities. In addition, 56 government agriculture extension staff and 26 project partner staff have also been capacitated to ensure they provide proper guidance to lead other farmers during spraying, including monitoring.
“Field staff have been drilled in the link between conservation agriculture and FAW bio-ecology, safe use and handling of pesticides and safe disposal of empty containers to avoid contamination. In assuring that the pesticides provided do not pose any harm to farmers and the community at large in the application process, Ingo Consortium has ensured that the properly trained lead farmers are the only people to handle the drugs with supervision of government extension workers,” s ays Bernadet t ah Zimba, Climate Change at the Centre for Environmental Policy and Advocacy Programme Officer.
A total of 1,975 litres (l) of Deltanex 25EC has been provided to nine of the 10 districts where the project is being implemented to support farmers manage FAW. The distribution breakdown is as follows: Mangochi 610l, Machinga 180l, Karonga 300l, Phalombe 50l, Chikwawa 194l, Nsanje 46l, Dedza 155l, Balaka 80l and Salima 360l. A month after the provision of the pesticide, 521l has been sprayed on 2,563 hectares under maize cultivation.
In Mangochi, the consortium through Concern Worldwide is scaling up awareness with farmers at Katuli Extension Planning Area (EPA) where FAWs were destroying maize at a very tender age. During a recent visit there, Agriculture Extension Development Officer (AEDO) Medson Maloto explained that 610l of Deltanex 25EC has been received under the support of Ingo Consortium.
“So far, 195 litres has been sprayed onto the maize that was affected by the pest. This covers 780 hectares. We have a balance of 425 litres in our stock as we speak. Close to 1,251 farming households have been reached including 172 lead farmers. Apart from the training, the farmers have benefitted from protective gear, masks, gumboots, gloves, apron, goggles, work suits and head caps in 13 village development committees within the EPA,” Maloto said.
Female lead farmer Frida Chisenga, from Katuli Village in T/A Katuli said they were first trained to look for signs such as proliferation on the leaves, a sign that they are being eaten, and dung left during inspection as prevalence of the pest.
“In gardens where application was done when maize had just reached knee height, the maize recovered and is ever since growing very well. However, this was not the case in gardens that were sprayed later while the maize had grown over knee height as the damage had already been done and was beyond control,” said Alubi Tayimu, another lead farmer in the area.
In Dedza, through United Purpose, Ingo Consortium is spearheading resilience interventions through conservation agriculture.
Speaking during a resilience field day with emphasis on conservation agriculture and curbing the spread of FAW in her area, Senior Chief Kachindamoto said she would not sit idle but ensure that chiefs are on the forefront in adhering to conservation agriculture practices and all other interventions aimed at fighting the spread of FAW.
Ingo Consortium has spread its footprint nationwide in its quest to deal with FAW.
“Two thousand one hundred and seventeen hectares have been attacked by FAW, representing 53 percent of the total land for crop production in Kaporo South EPA in Karonga. Ingo Consortium through Save the Children International (SCI) has provided us with 150 litres of Deltanex 25EC which we are spraying in the programme’s beneficiary farms as well as the neighbouring non-beneficiary farms. SCI has also trained and provided protective gear to 61 lead farmers in the area” said Madalitso Munthali, AEDO for the area.
Stopping the spread of FAW is increasingly becoming a crucial component of ensuring food security. The evidence gathered through visits to several sites that have received support from Ingo Consortium is showing that the interventions of curbing FAW are yielding results. Concerted efforts would, therefore, help address the challenge of food insecurity and go a long way in building national resilience to
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