Malawian President Peter Mutharika has declared a state of disaster in all areas affected by the fall armyworm (FAW), which broke out several weeks ago in the Southern Province.
The pesticide-resistant worm has since spread to 20 out of 28 districts in the face of incapacitated agricultural extension services, which lacks essential pesticides, staff and vehicles to access farmers.
The declaration was made in accordance with power conferred upon the President in Section 31(1) of the Disaster Preparedness and Relief Act and came into effect on 15 December.
To date, the armyworm has destroyed an estimated 50.3% of Malawi’s early planted maize crop over an area of 35 870 ha. In a statement, Presidential Spokesman Mgeme Kalilani said additional resources are required to manage and stop the further spread of the pest. More than 130 000 farming families have been affected.
“As medium- to long-term strategy, the government is working on the development of an Integrated Pest Management [IPM) strategy to augment the chemical control methods already being done currently and will embark on further studies to gain better understanding of the pest, as well its control requirements,” Mutharika said.
To date, the government has acquired 56 052 litres of pesticides (Dursban and Cyperimethrin) that are being distributed to smallholder farmers through district-based agricultural extension offices. However, the distribution is limited only to farmers who are able to collect the pesticides personally from agricultural extension offices.
The government plans to buy an additional 400 000 litres of pesticides that will be distributed to farmers through their agriculture extension planning areas. Pheromone traps have also been installed in several districts to monitor the prevalence of the pest.
Further, Mutharika said the Malawian government will need increased support from the United Nations and other donor agencies to deal comprehensively with the FAW outbreak.
- This article was compiled by Oscar Nkala and Sbusile Mndawe.