Armyworms threaten southern Africa food supply: UN agency

2017-02-17 17:25


Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Harare  - An outbreak of armyworm caterpillars present in several southern African countries threatens to strip the entire region of key food supplies, warned the UN food agency Thursday.

"It is probably only a matter of time before most of the region will be affected," said David Phiri, sub-regional coordinator for Southern Africa of the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

Phiri added that it is "even more concerning that the pest could be here to stay."

The warnings came at the close of an emergency regional summit in Harare to tackle an outbreak of crop-eating armyworms that has already caused damage to staple crops in Zambia, Zimbabwe, South Africa and Ghana.

Reports also suggest Malawi, Mozambique and Namibia are affected.

"Southern Africa is currently the epicentre of the fall worm problem," Phiri said. "There are other countries that have already been affected...and others that are at risk."

Experts and representatives from 13 southern and east African countries gathered for the three-day emergency meeting to thrash out solutions, agreeing "to increase surveillance, co-operation and share information" on the armyworms.

The first fall armyworms were spotted in Nigeria and Togo last year, with one theory saying they arrived in Africa on commercial flights from South America or in plants imported from the region.

The caterpillars eat maize, wheat, millet and rice - key food sources in southern and eastern Africa, where many areas are already struggling with shortages after years of severe drought.

They also attack cotton, soybean, potato and tobacco fields.

Chemical pesticides can be effective, but fall armyworms have developed resistance in their native Americas.

"There is still a lot of work that we need to do to begin to practically control the trans-boundary pest and disease problem," Phiri said.

Brazil spends about $600m to fight the pests every year, according to Phiri.

"We agree that prevention is more effective and less costly," Phiri said.

In December, Zambia deployed its national air force to transport pesticides across the country so that fields could be sprayed.

Read more on:    zambia  |  zimbabwe  |  south africa  |  malawi  |  togo  |  nigeria  |  namibia  |  mozambique  |  southern africa

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.