Zimbabwe hosts emergency meeting on armyworm infestation

DW – February 14, 2017

The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is holding a meeting in Harare on how to stop the spreading infestation of the “fall armyworm.” The caterpillar has already caused damage to staple crops in Zambia, Zimbabwe, South Africa and Ghana. There are reports that Malawi, Mozambique and Namibia are also affected.

According to experts, this is the first time that the fall armyworm has caused widespread damage in sub-Saharan Africa. The armyworm is actually a moth which burrows into crops in its larval stage. When they re-emerge, after a week to 12 days, it will be as moths that can fly up to 1,000 kilometers.

The armyworms usually attack fields en mass, consuming crops including maize, wheat, millet and rice, the main sources for food in southern and eastern Africa. These are regions where farmers are already struggling to grow their crops because of severe drought.

“Nobody seems to know how it reached Africa,” said David Phiri, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s coordinator for southern Africa adding that caterpillar only first appeared in Nigeria and Togo last year. “So, farmers do not know really how to treat it.”