Editorial Comment: Govt must prioritise armyworm control

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Zimbabwe’s economy is agro-based, spelling the need for the Ministry of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development to always be on high alert to ensure all developments, natural or man-made that reduce crop yields are prevented. Where prevention is too late, corrective measures should be taken to ensure the impact is minimised. It is against the background of the armyworm outbreak in some parts of Mashonaland Central including Mt Darwin, Mbire and Muzarabani that we question the Government’s preparedness to deal with this devastating pest.

Plant Protection Research Services Institute deputy director in the Ministry of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development Dr Godfrey Chikwenhere was quoted in Thursday’s edition of The Herald saying US$45 000 had been set aside to buy chemicals and protective clothing to deal with the pest.

Government normally recommends the use of Deltamethrin and Cypermethrin, to control armyworm in pastures that are less toxic to livestock and powerful Karate and Carbaryl to spray in maize and other crops.

It is our submission that annually, lip-service is rendered to the fight against the armyworm.

In this instance, $45 000 cannot effectively cover the entire country, especially the most affected areas in Mashonaland and some parts of Matabeleland.

The impact will be even more disastrous if the pest invades areas that receive less rain because at times more rains reduce the impact of the pest.

Given that a successful harvest helps reduce the national import bill for food, we implore that more money be allocated towards the fight against the armyworm and any other pests that destroy crops.

It is clear that allowances for officers on the ground alone besides chemicals and other consumables will gobble thousands of dollars, rendering the whole programme ineffective.

We therefore urge Government to mobilise more financial resources to fight the pest in order to ensure the country records another bumper harvest as the country needs more than two million tonnes of maize for human and animal consumption.

Some commercial farmers can buy chemicals when their crops are under attack, but for the majority of villagers, the impact will be catastrophic.

It is against this backdrop that Government should allocate more money to the department of Plant Protection Research Services Institute to ensure that the country’s food security situation is not jeopardised by the armyworm.

However, inasmuch as the Government is expected to play a leading role in the fight against the armyworm, the farmers are also expected to play their part.

Farmers should scout and report to the nearest Agritex offices if they notice the presence of the moths that produce the worms.

We also challenge Agritex officers to educate farmers so that they are able to identify the pests early and alert authorities on time to reduce losses.

Government should always be proactive by capacitating Agritex officers with motorbikes and vehicles to enable them to service farmers effectively.

The rains were late this year and measures should be taken to contain the armyworm outbreak.

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