The Malawian Ministry of Agriculture has confirmed reports of a fast-spreading outbreak of fall armyworm (FAW) in the Balaka District south of the country.
District Agriculture Development Office (DADO) head for Balaka Denis Zingeni told the Malawi News Agency (MANA) that his office is trying to control the multiplication and spread of the worms.
“Yes, we are aware of the (fall) armyworm outbreak. According to our assessment, almost 1 036.1 hectares of crops, belonging to 681 farming families have been affected,” Zingeni said.
The local office has also distributed the pesticide Sulpan. However, the exercise faces severe limitations because pesticides are only given to farmers who report personally at the district agricultural office. The agricultural extension officer has no vehicle to visit farmers in outlying areas.
Group village head Khefa of the Kalembo Traditional Authority said despite being the most affected, no one in her area has received pesticides or any form of government support to contain the outbreak.
“Many nutrition gardens have been attacked by the fall armyworms, which are multiplying so rapidly. Farmers are struggling to control the situation because they have not received the necessary pesticides from the Ministry of Agriculture officials,” she said.
FOOD SECURITY IMPLICATIONS
The outbreak is likely to impact negatively on the food security situation in Southern Malawi, which was ravaged by the same worms for the entire 2016/’17 cropping season. According to the Ministry of Agriculture, the armyworm destroyed 17 000 ha of Balaka farmland last season.
In the absence of human and financial government capacity to fight the worms, local agricultural officials have switched to advising farmers to diversify their crop range in order to minimise losses in case the fall armyworm destroyed the maize crop.
According to a United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) assessment of the 2016/’17 FAW outbreak in Malawi, it started in the Blantyre and Machinga Agriculture Development Divisions (ADDs).
It spread to the agricultural divisions of Kasungu, Mzuzu and Karonga due to confusion as agriculture extension officers initially mistook the FAW for the maize stalk-borer.