Southern Africa faces food deficits as a result of prolonged dry spells and fall armyworm, says the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).
This comes as the Zambian agricultural think-tank the Indaba Agricultural Policy Research Institute (IAPRI) predicted the climatic and crop disease factors would negatively impact this year’s maize harvest.
“The tell-tale signs are not good for cropping season with the combination of delayed rains and outbreak of the fall armyworm,” says FAO Southern Africa Coordinator David Phiri.
Phiri said the regional bumper harvest in the last season will fortify the region from another food crisis in the short term, though the long-term outlook remained bleak.
According to the FAO, fall armyworm had already destroyed thousands of hectares of maize crop across the region, affecting 28 countries on the continent.
“The biggest problem this year is less, overall, the fall armyworm than it is the sporadic rainfall patterns that are emerging. A combination makes the situation worse,” says Phiri.
Most parts of Zambia have been affected by drought and battling fall armyworm and large stalk borers. The late distribution of farm inputs under the government’s Farmer Input Support Programme (FISP) has exacerbating the situation.
“This will make it difficult for Zambia to record a bumper harvest,” says IAPRI Executive Director, Chance Kabaghe. He adds that the unpredictable climate should act as an impetus to drive through intensified irrigation to reduce over-dependency on rainfall.