Thursday, 5 January 2017

Zambia May Lose 40% Maize This Year Due To Army Worms

Dr. Zitsanza (left) analysing the fall army worms in the lab
By Paul Shalala in Ndola

The International Red Locust Control Organisation for Central and Southern Africa has warned that Zambia may lose upto 40% of its maize yield this year due to the invasion of army worms.

International Red Locust Control Organisation Chief Scientist Dr. Eliot Zitsanza says according to the organisation's assesment so far, upto 40% of maize will be destroyed if much effort is not put to reduce the spread of the pests.

"Our preliminary assesment shows that the current invasion will impact on national food security in Zambia. Between 30% and 40% of the crop will be affected. We advise farmers to keep spraying their maize because the pests are destructive," said Dr Zitsanza in an interview in Ndola.

He has disclosed that Zambia has been invaded by a new pest called Fall army worm which is different from the African army worms which wrecked havoc across the country in 2013.

Dr Zitsanza says the fall army worm originates from the Americas and it was probably brought to Africa through trade.

"From our laboratory analysis, the current pests are not African army worms but fall army worms. They differ alot. African army worms are darker while the fall worms are lighter. In terms of feeding habits, the fall worms eat the upper part of the maize were it grows while the African army worms usually eat leaves," he said.

Two weeks ago, the Ministry of Agriculture sent samples of the army worms to the International Red Locust Control Organisation's laboratory in Ndola for tests.

The aim of the tests was to find out what kind of creatures they are and what interventions can be made.

And according to data from the organisation, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Nigeria have been hit by the fall army worm invasion.

This has led to concern in Zambia whose staple food is maize.

On Monday, Zambia's Vice President Inonge Wina described the destruction by the army worms as a national crisis.

So far, six of the 10 provinces of Zambia have been attacked by the army worms.

Central and Copperbelt provinces have been worst hit.
Countries where the organisation operates

Over the past week, government has been flying chemicals to all the provinces for further distribution to farmers to fight the fall army worms.

This has been done through the help of the Zambia Air Force.

And yesterday, President Edgar Lungu enlisted the Zambia National Service to the fight against the fall army worms.

This has made the response to the creatures robust with other agencies already engaged in the operation.

The International Red Locust Control Organisation is an inter-governmental institution which gives early warning to member states on the invasion and spread of pests.

The organisation, which is headquartered in Ndola (Zambia), conducts aerial surveillance of these pests and laboratory examination of creatures to offer advise to member states.

With helicopters stationed at the Simon Mwansa Kapwepwe International Airport in Ndola, the International Red Locust Control Organisation conducts periodic checks on invasive pests in the region.

Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Mozambique are members of the organisation.


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