Namibia: Omaheke Worm Outbreak Investigated

The agriculture ministry is investigating the outbreak of acacia worms in the Omaheke region.

The ministry confirmed at a press conference on Thursday that it was aware of the outbreak, and had deployed a team to the region to investigate the issue.

The deputy director of plant health, Margaret Matengu, stressed the need to assess the worms to verify whether they are pests

that may be detrimental to crops. She added that, after thorough investigations have been conducted, they would need to establish the worms' ecology.

The initial concern was that the worms were army worms, which could be a threat to crops and pastures.

"We are monitoring the situation on the ground and, from our observations thus far, these are acacia worms that feed on that specific trees. We need to assess, identify and advise accordingly. A team from the ministry has been deployed to investigate the situation because the local people are also eating these worms," she said.

Agriculture's acting executive director, Joseph Hailwa, gave assurances that the worms, which appear to be heading underground to change to the pupa stage, were not army worms, which would have made the situation catastrophic.

Hailwa said his ministry is committed to finding innovative solutions to the problems experienced by those the ministry has to serve.

He further mentioned that his ministry has a number of projects in place through which to execute its mandate.

BUSH CONTROL STRATEGIES

At the same conference, Hailwa announced that the German government had donated equipment worth N$2 million to the Namibian

government for bush control and biomass utilisation initiatives.

The equipment includes vehicles and information technology office equipment donated to the ministry and laboratory equipment intended for the University of Namibia.

This is part of the Bush Control and Biomass Utilisation (BCBU) project in collaboration with Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) in Namibia.

This project monitors priority regions severely affected by bush encroachment.

German ambassador to Namibia Herbert Beck said the donated equipment is part of the two countries' bilateral cooperation agreement.

He said the idea is to foster the capacity of their Namibian counterparts, while enabling effective governance and efficient service delivery.

"This is especially important during difficult times like these, when economic hardships are intensified by the most severe drought

of the past century, exposing the vulnerability of many Namibians to the effects of climate change. I am very pleased to see a positive impact of our bilateral cooperation projects. Among others, the number of people employed in bush biomass utilisation has increased from 6 000 to about 10 000 in the past two years," Beck said.

GIZ country director Thomas Kirsch said more than 30 million hectares of rangeland are affected by bush encroachment in Namibia, which is more than two-thirds of the country.

He elaborated that the bilateral project is aimed at turning this significant challenge into an opportunity, creating economic potential along various biomass value chains, which makes sustainable bush thinning affordable.

"Today, thanks to professional industry structures and accelerated by the ongoing drought, the biomass utilisation sector employs some 10 000 workers. Growth at Home is achieved in value chains, such as charcoal, animal fodder, biochar and energy production," he said. Hailwa, who expressed gratitude for the donation, said it comes at an opportune time and extends support to two priority areas, namely law enforcement and the monitoring of bush harvesting operations.

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