By Eliaser Ndeyanale
AN armyworm outbreak has invaded the country’s biggest agricultural projects destroying crops.
The irrigation projects that have been attacked by the deleterious pests are Musese and Sikondo in Kavango West and Etunda in the Omusati region.
Omusati regional governor, Ergnus Endjala Monday this week also confirmed the presence of the worm at the prominent Etunda irrigation scheme near Ruacana saying the project has been attacked and the worm is eating everything in their path.
“What I can confirm to you now is that Etunda irrigation project in Ruacana is under attack,” said Endjala.
The Agriculture Business Development Agency (AGRIBUSDEV) managing director Petrus Uugwanga told Confidente on Tuesday that armyworm is destroying the crops at the three irrigation projects but could not say how many hectares have been damaged as he has not yet visited the projects.
“I have not been on the ground but the worm is not only peculiar Etunda, it has also been reported at Musese and Sikondo,” he said.
However, Endjala told Confidente that the situation at Etunda is worsening. “The bad part here is that now the worm has started destroying the new plants and farmers are also devastated by the armyworm outbreak. Etunda will not have a good harvest this year,” he said, adding that the farm manager had told him that they were waiting for chemicals to be delivered to the farm from Grootfontein to battle the bugs.
He added that the situation could be arrested if the farmers could use an aeroplane that fumigates from above because the worm has even invaded big trees.
He further urged farmers in the region to report the cases of armyworm to agricultural extension officers in their constituencies.
Ogongo and Elim constituency councillors Wilhelm Iiyambo and Gerhard Shiimi recently announced that the armyworm outbreak in the areas was noted two weeks ago. They said the armyworms are attacking crops and grass.
“I saw them in my field feeding on the grasses. The armyworms put us at risk of realising low crop production thereby fueling hunger in our area,” Shiimi said.
The councillors are encouraging farmers in the affected villages to resort to traditional ways of fighting the armyworm invasion for fear of side effects that may come with the use of commercial pesticides.
“For those whose crops have germinated and have realised that their crops are being destroyed by the worms they should not use pesticides because they are harmful to livestock.
“Even if you treat the mahangu fields only, you can never guarantee that animals would not enter the fields and feed on the treated crops. People should just dig threnches around their mahangu fields so that the armyworms can fall in them,” urged Iiyambo who first saw the pests on January 4 in Matheus Iilonga’s mahangu field at Onamundindi village where President Hage Geingob launched ‘Operation Tulongeni 2017.’
Armyworms have a fondness for millet and seem to like it more than any other crop and when they attack, the result could be very devastating. They favour the leaves of small grains and grasses and they only chew the leaf margins; however, they can completely strip corn plants.
Farmers in these areas are also faced with a daily struggle to keep their animals alive while hoping that grazing would improve after the rain experienced this month. The rains that fell about weeks ago provided enough water for the animals in some areas, but grazing has not yet improved.
The drought has affected mostly the cattle, but a considerable number of donkeys have also perished.
Around 200 000 people in Omusati, are dependent on food aid until this year’s harvest in March, according to the United Nations’ World Food Programme. Last year New Era reported that 24 000 people had been affected by drought.
The last time the outbreak of armyworm was reported in Namibia was 2013. The worm is common after a dry period. Farmers were then urged to weed their fields, as the armyworms seem to be attracted to grassy fields.
The Government then further advised farmers to resort to traditional measures to control the pest, like digging 30-centimetre deep trenches around their fields.
AG Web, a farming journal, reported on Tuesday that neighbouring countries such as Zimbabwe, Zambia and Malawi have also been invaded by armyworm.
In Zimbabwe, the caterpillars have already invaded seven of the eight provinces where corn is grown. It’s yet to be detected in South Africa, the continent’s biggest producer of the grain, with the government raising an alert and preparing contingency plans in case of an outbreak.
Zimbabwe and Zambia are trying to contain the outbreak, with the latter declaring it a national crisis and deploying the air force to help distribute pesticide.
For a region trying to recover from drought, the pest brings renewed fears of food shortages and inflation. The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation says the effects could be devastating for the area if its spread isn’t controlled.
Confidente. Lifting the Lid. Copyright © 2015