Emergency International World

Malawi hit by armyworm outbreak, threatens maize crop

Image: Agricultural officials spray maize plants affected by armyworms in Keembe district, Zambia, January 6, 2017. REUTERS/Jean Mandela

LILONGWE (Reuters) – Malawi, which was hit by a crippling drought last year, has become the third southern African nation to report an outbreak of armyworms, a voracious pest that devours maize and other crops.

“We have a reported invasion this week but we are confident in dealing with this because we have pesticides,” Malawi’s Minister of Agriculture George Chaponda told Reuters late Wednesday.

“We have been able to deal with such issues in the past.”

The current outbreak is around Zomba, the former colonial capital in southern Malawi. A year ago, Malawi successfully contained an armyworm invasion that affected seven districts across the country.

Malawi’s outbreak follows one in neighboring Zambia, where the military has been deployed to battle the bugs, and Zimbabwe.

The armyworms are caterpillars that “march” across the landscape in large groups feasting on young maize plants, wiping out entire fields.

Malawi’s maize crop, the staple grain for the impoverished, land-locked nation, was devastated last year by an El Nino-triggered drought.

Around 6.5 million Malawians, over a third of the population, are dependent on food aid until this year’s harvest in March, according to the United Nations’ World Food Program.

(Reporting by Mabvuto Banda; Writing by Ed Stoddard; Editing by Randy Fabi)

Copyright 2015 Thomson Reuters. Click for Restrictions.

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