Army worms have invaded and destroyed large expanses of farmland in Ghana. A Chief Director at the Ministry of Agriculture, Vesper Soglo, said so far farms in five out of the ten regions are affected and the government is working to find a lasting solution to the problem.
Among the places that have experienced the outbreak are Brong Ahafo, Ashanti, Volta, Northern and Eastern regions. Soglo said the worms destroy crops in the grass family like maize and rice. In addition, animals that feed on infested pasture get bloated and die. Soglo says the works secrete fluids that can be poisonous when consumed in large quantities. He said, “So far, range lands…maize farms…and rice farms have been infested and even the Tamale sports stadium where grass was planted. So you can see it also affected the beauty of our stadium. So it is not only crops. As they move they destroy anything that would have been useful to man.”
In the Nkoranza District of the Brong Ahafo region for example, 10 percent of the more than eight thousand hectares of infected maize have been destroyed. Soglo said the situation is likely to affect the national food supply in the coming year. He said, “There are many farmers who have lost their farms and they may not be able to replant." He added that some of the maize cannot be recovered when attacked, and will yield nothing. He said the problem will obviously affect people's "food basket" and food security.
Soglo is not certain, however, whether the expected shortfalls will require food imports. He said in the face of mounting challenges such as scarcity of funds to manage such large outbreaks, the government is making every effort to bring the situation under control. So far an amount of two hundred and twenty thousand dollars has been used to acquire 18 thousand liters of insecticides for spraying.
Alhaji Suleimana Yelemia is a Deputy Coordinator at the National Disaster Management Organization. He said his outfit has mobilized spray gangs in all the regions affected by the army worms, “They are spraying in all the five regions. As they spray they continue to monitor whether the chemicals have been effective or not. So when it is overwhelming they have to call for assistance.”
Spraying in this case may only be an after-the-fact measure because no early warning system is in place to alert farmers of any future impending invasion. Soglo explains that the most effective way of tackling the problem is to set traps, “When you have a certain number of catches in the trap then you know you are expecting an outbreak..." But he said, so far, no traps are in place and the outbreak took them by surprise. He added that awareness of the army worm problem is very limited, which didn't help in reporting it ahead of time.
Since the West Africa region is prone to attacks by army worms Soglo suggested what he called "sub regional linkages" to help with the problem. He said a joint effort is more effective than having countries pursue the problem on their own.