Farmers resort to extreme measures to repel army worms


By Davis Mulenga | 10 January 2017
fall army worms
Fall army worms - a picture taken by farmer Gift Mpande on his maize.

The Zambian government has asked farmers not to resort to unscientific methods to repel the so-called army worms currently destroying the maize crop.

“We advise farmers not to use washing detergents, or any other material, except the pesticides government has acquired to curb the attack of the army worms,” said Patrick Kangwa, national coordinator of government’s Disaster Management and Mitigation Unit.

Desperate times, desperate measures

This came after some unconventional methods went viral on Facebook and other social media platforms, boasting instant results in army worm control. An estimated 115 000ha of maize has been affected.

Farmer Musanga Naliswa said he had repelled the army worms from his maize with a solution made up of two cups of a branded washing powder and 15 litres of water. “I have seen better results using the washing powder solution than when I used pesticides,” Naliswa posted on a facebook forum, Small-Scale Farmers. The group is widely followed by the Zambian farming community.

Lusaka-based farmer, Mukwenya Banda, posted a similar success claim on the facebook forum.
“Put a few scoops of washing powder into 20 litres of water, then put [the mixture] in a sprayer and spray straight down the middle of your maize field. You will see the pests come up and die,” Banda said.

Not everybody convinced

Mixed reactions on the forum suggested that the proponents of the washing powder formula had gained some followers while others resisted it.

“I will have to try this too. I almost cried when I visited my maize field,” said Kangwa Sitenge.

‘I almost cried when I visited my maize field’

On the opposing side, Charles Malambo derided the washing powder formula. “You can’t be serious,” he said.

So dire is the army worm situation that President Edgar Lungu, short of declaring a national disaster, has directed various government wings, including Zambia National Service (ZNS) to join the Ministry of Agriculture in an operation to stop the spread of the worms that were destroying maize fields in Luapula, Copperbelt, Lusaka, North-Western, Southern, Muchinga, Eastern and Central provinces.

Lungu asked MPs to strengthen pest control efforts in their respective constituencies.