Windhoek - After a prolonged period of drought, Namibian farmers have yet another problem to tackle in the form of fall army worms and African army worms which are currently attacking their crops.
The areas most affected by the fall army worms and African army worms outbreak are in the Zambezi, Oshana and Oshikoto regions.
The Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry confirmed the outbreak saying that the fall army worm was reported on 6 January 2020 in areas such as Sibbinda, Kongola, Ngoma, Bukalo, Itomba, Nsundwa, Kasheshe and Musanga in the Zambezi region.
“Following these reports, this confirmed the several hectares of farmland are adversely affected by the worms. The crops in these areas are at different growth stages, from germination, vegetative to flowering stages, which is highly susceptible to fall army worms and African army worms,” said Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry executive director, Percy Misika.
The fall army worm is a pervasive agricultural pest native to south and central America that ruthlessly worked its way across the African continent, after arriving in West Africa and hitting Nigeria in 2016.
The agricultural ministry said the worms then made their way to south of the Sahara and into Namibia in 2016/2017 cropping season.
“The fall army worm has spread quickly due to its short reproductive cycle and ability to travel long distance quickly during its adult (moth) stage,” said Misika.
The fall army worm’s lifespan from egg to larva to moth lasts from one to three months. It is during the larva stage that it creates the most crop damage. The agricultural ministry said that the fall army worm is difficult to control because it reproduces fast and in larger numbers and can migrate long distances, hides within growing leaves and is also resistant to several pesticides.
“Okapuka (worms) is in abundance here. I think we might need to buy seeds and replant again because they are really causing havoc,” Kambwali, a farmer in Oshikoto region, told The Southern Times.
In an effort to help the farmers, the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry has directed the regions with pesticides to start the spraying programme with immediate effect in order to contain the pests in areas where they have been reported.
“In addition, all the crop growing regions were directed to intensify awareness campaigns through the local radio service in order to educate farmers on the identification, ecology and control of the pest. The Ministry will continue with surveillance, using pheromone traps in areas which are not yet reported to be affected by the pest to ensure timely control of the fall army worm and African worm outbreak,” said Misika.