A swarm of red locust has invaded Southern Malawi where the migratory pests are attacking crop fields, the International Red Locust Control Organisation for Central and Southern Africa (IRLCOCSA) confirmed on Wednesday.
As a result IRLCOCSA has put five other members of the six-nation organisation – Zambia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Kenya and Tanzania on high alert to thwart the migratory pests from spreading. Previously, IRLCOCSA forecast the pests would be a great concern for the coming season and may affect food security in southern Africa.
“We are working with the Ministry of Agriculture in Malawi to contain the swarm that has been moving in the southern direction and ensure that there is no threat to neighbouring countries,” said Elliot Zitsanza, acting IRLCOCSA Director.
Dr Zitsanza said the red locust first spotted mid-September in the Chinyama area along the Ruo River had affected cassava, maize, and sweet potato fields in Mulanje district.
He said the local authorities in Malawi were assisting farmers in the affected areas with pesticides while making arrangements for aerial spraying.
Fully-grown ravenous insects are capable of destroying a maize field within hours. IRLCOCSA says the changes in climatic conditions had created favourable breeding conditions red locust and other crop-eating pests.
“There are strong indications of red locust still being a threat to the southern African. This has demands intensified surveillance and monitoring to keep the threat in check,” Dr Zitsanza said.
Earlier this year, parts of central Zambia were invaded by red locust that wreaked havoc among local farmers. A budget of K10 million was required to quell the outbreak.