The fall armyworm that ravaged maize fields in Zambia during the last planting season has resurfaced in Central province. This raised concerns about the country’s readiness to handle the pest during the 2017/’18 farming season.
Authorities in Central Province told local media the worms were spotted in the winter maize fields in Serenje district.
“We are calling on the Ministry of Agriculture to immediately intervene and prevent further damage,’ said Chester Kasonde, Serenje Council chairperson.
The affected area is about 72 kilometres from the main town in Serenje. “This area is in the valley which allows for the growing of maize twice in a year. It is the winter maize that is being attacked now,” he said.
Last year more than 172,000 hectares of maize fields, in all 10 provinces, were ravaged by armyworm and the cost of bringing the situation under control ran into millions of kwacha. The pests also wreaked havoc in Malawi, Zimbabwe and other neighbouring countries. That led to calls to put measures in place for an early warning system to effectively respond to attacks.
Among the mooted plans was the implementation of a so-called climate information sharing platform to provide reliable, accessible, and timely information to communities. The latest outbreak raised concerns about the country’s readiness to respond to another outbreak.
“Last year, we missed the early clues, and now this. I’m not sure we are ready,” said Denis Kunda, a farmer of Serenje. Government hasn’t responded to enquiries yet.