International Development News
Development News Edition

Malawi farmers battle crop-munching pests, hit by food shortages

The outbreak of crop-munching fall armyworms, a pest from Latin America that first threatened African crops late in 2016.


Malawi farmers battle crop-munching pests, hit by food shortages
Malawi’s maize production in the 2016/17 farming season stood at 3.2 million tonnes. (Image credit: Pixabay)

A worsening pest infestation is threatening Malawi's staple maize crop for the second year running, leaving farmers struggling to salvage crops already faltering due to drought.

The outbreak of crop-munching fall armyworms, a pest from Latin America that first threatened African crops late in 2016.

Impoverished Malawi is periodically hit by food shortages as it relies heavily on rain-fed agriculture and most of its maize is grown on small plots by subsistence farmers.

"The worm is not dying, but we have to keep spraying in the hope it may give up. Last year it was the same," said 20-year-old Patricia Ntasa in Chikwawa, 77 km (48 miles) southeast of Malawi's economic hub of Blantyre.

In the same field, Stoneck Njanji, 40, was worn out as he tried to kill the pest using spray. "We must spray once every week until maize matures. It's hard labour," he said.

Official estimates of the damage to maize by both the drought and armyworms are underway, the government has said. Last year, half of Malawi's maize was infected by armyworms.

The Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET), which issues alarms about food shortages, said in its February report that drought and the pest infestation will reduce maize harvests by 10 percent in the 2017/18 (October to April) season.

Malawi's maize production in the 2016/17 farming season stood at 3.2 million tonnes.

"Like last year, we have to think about what to do to find food," said Barton Mapepa, 50, another farmer. Mapepa said his family relied on sweet potatoes to supplement its food supply.

Malawi declared the armyworms a national disaster in December after discovering the pests had spread to 22 of Malawi's 28 districts. In 2017, the pest infestation also affected Zambia, Zimbabwe and South Africa.

Lewis Lipenga, a crops protection officer in the Agriculture Ministry, the army worm had grown resistant to chemical pesticides since its arrival in Malawi, while high temperatures helped it multiply fast.

The Catholic Relief Services (CRS) charity is working with farmers on cheaper methods to tackle the worm, such as spraying pulp from the leaves of the neem tree or planting crops resistant to the worm, such as sweet potatoes.

"The best we can do is to try and control it, rather than expecting to eradicate it completely soon," said Dane Fredenburg, a project director for agriculture at the CRS.

(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)


TRENDING

OPINION/BLOG/INTERVIEW

How music can help expectant mothers during pregnancy

Music provides pleasant ambience for all but its more important for expectant mothers as besides ensuring pleasant environment for them it also directly and indirectly influences the unborn babies. There are various scientific findings to c...

EdTech: A technical approach to flexible and cost-effective education

Its hight time for the world to go for innovative approaches like e-learning over traditional learning methods that need physical infrastructure, long-term planning, and huge investment. ...

Our school campaigns are our strongest ally: Joaquin Antuna, founder of Peace and Cooperation

Joaquin Antuna is the founder of Peace and Cooperation, a Spanish NGO which was nominated as peace messenger by the United Nations in 1986. Antuna is of very firm opinion that in order to have an incisive impact on the community we live in,...

'No escape from telephones', this 1953 prediction actually comes true

In 1953, a telephone company chief predicted that therell be no escape from telephones in the future....

Videos

Latest News

UPDATE 5-'Outsourcing' asylum: U.S. sends Guatemala first Honduran migrant in new plan

The first foreign asylum-seeker arrived in Guatemala on Thursday from El Paso, Texas, under a U.S. agreement that establishes it as a so-called safe third country to process people fleeing persecution in their homelands. The program, simila...

EXPLAINER-"Give and Take" - the charges against Israel's Netanyahu

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was indicted on corruption charges on Thursday, throwing him into a legal limbo and driving the country deeper into political crisis. Netanyahu, 70, denies all wrongdoing. But he now faces a legal p...

WRAPUP 2-Netanyahu charged in corruption cases, deepening Israeli political disarray

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was charged with bribery, breach of trust and fraud on Thursday, a criminal indictment that plunged Israel deeper into political disarray.The decision announced by Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit was th...

Slovaks rally against proposed abortion restrictions

Access to abortion is a human right and should not be subject to public opinion, the organiser of a campaign to block proposed restrictions in Slovakia said on Thursday, as a protest got under way.Slovakia currently allows abortion up until...

Give Feedback