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The fall armyworm scare

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The invasion of Fall Army Worms pose present danger to Malawi’s staple crop and is alarmingly becoming clear that more people may not have food next year.
The army worms are spreading very fast while the response has been slow, a scary development considering that in two weeks, the worms have spread from 34,000 hectares to 193,000, worsening fears of a potential wipeout of the country’s staple crop.
The land affected by the plague so far represents 12 percent of Malawi’s total land for growing the maize crop.
At this rate, more than 50 percent of the country’s maize fields could be wiped out within
6 weeks if the crisis is not handled in time.
The bad news is that government has no funds to stem the spread.
Last week, government said it needs about K9.3 billion to contain the fall armyworms infestation which has affected 20 districts in the country.
Of the K9 billion, K8.4billion will be used to procure pesticides while the remaining amount is for research work, supervision and monitoring the interventions across all the affected areas.
However, Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development, Joseph Mwanamveka, disclosed that the government only has around K600 million, nine times less than the required amount.
Controller of Extension and Technical Activities in the Ministry of Agriculture, Albert Changaya, said the response to the crisis is slow.
“The response is slow because some of the offices who showed interest to help government are closed for the festive holiday and said they will be back in the first week of January”, said Changaya.
Changaya has told the Malawi News that interventions need to be made quickly particularly in the Southern Region, failing which, nothing will be saved.
“If all goes well, we can have the help in time. But there is need for urgent help in the Southern
Region within the next two weeks, otherwise it will be too late”, said Changaya
On Friday, the ministry met some of the country’s development partners and other well-wishers who had expressed interest in helping the country handle the disaster.
The donors included the US Embassy, European Union (EU), World Bank, Irish Aid, The United
Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).
“12, 000 litres of the chemicals has already been sent to the areas while some donors have pledged a combined total of 15,000 litres. Others have pledged to help us with the research work”, said Changaya. The combined total of available and pledged amount of pesticides needed to contain the fall armyworms is less than 100, 000 litres, three times less than the required amount of chemicals.
As part of its long term plan, government says it will introduce natural predators to attack the armyworms.
Some of the districts that have been most hit by the disaster include Balaka, Rumphi, Machinga, Salima, Chikwawa,Blantyre, Chiradzulu, Mwanza, Neno, Mulanje, Phalombe and Thyolo.

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