31 January 2016

Malawi: Army Worms Attack Maize Fields, Threatening Food Security

Armyworms in Malawi are threatening food security by reducing crop yields with over 167 hectares of maize fields have been attached in Ntcheu fueling the risk of decreased agricultural production during the current growing season in the district.

Maize field in Ndembo Village attaked by army worms

One of the farmers of Ndembo Village in the area of Traditional Authority Ganya, Helix Mzeru said the army worm outbreak was noted three weeks ago when farmers in the area observed strange butterflies hovering in the maize fields.

"The butterflies were seen during the period when the area was hit by a prolonged dry spell which led to the weathering of crops at a tender level," said Ndembo.

He said the armyworms have also attacked cotton plants, a development which he described as strange as armyworms are well known for eating maize leaves and grass.

"This growing season has been hit by prolonged dry spells and army worms and this puts us at risk of realizing low crop production thereby fueling hunger in our area," he said.

According to Ntcheu District Agriculture Development Officer, Annily Msukwa, the heavily infested areas include Bwanje and Phanga in traditional Authorities Ganya and Masasa respectively.

"Over 167 hectares of maize crop have been infested by the army worms affecting over 733 households," said Msukwa.

She said as an intervention to address the situation, her office has already distributed deltamethrine, a chemical which is sprayed to kill army worms.

Msukwa however, said the chemical is not enough as more and more fields continue to be infested by the worms.

Commenting on the prolonged dry spell, Msukwa said over 43, 540 hectares of crops have been affected across the district.

"The district has also experienced prolonged dry spells and this has forced farmers in some areas to up- root maize crops and replanting and in some cases farmers have replanted three times," she said.

She then appealed to government, development partners and non-governmental organizations to consider assisting the farmers with cassava cuttings, sweet potato vines and cow peas which are drought resistant.

Commenting on food situation in the district, Ntcheu District Commissioner, Harry Phiri said over 31, 225 households out of a total number of 158, 314 farming households are heavily hit by hunger.

"Government through Care Malawi is distributing relief foods in form of maize, cooking oil and corn soya blended flour and cash to some of the hunger stricken households, but those getting cash which amounts to K12, 600 per household cannot manage to buy a 50 Kg maize bag as the current price for a bag is at K13, 500," said Phiri.

Phiri said instead of increasing the cash allocation per household which was initially at K15, 800, the money has been reduced to K12, 600 yet food prices continue to rise.

"I expected that the cash could have been increased considering that food market prices continue to rise," he said.

Currently, 8, 503 and 8, 143 households are receiving relief food and cash respectively across the district.

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