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December 18, 2012

Infestation Threatens Zambia’s Maize Crop

by James Butty

The Zambia National Farmers’ Union (ZNFU) is appealing to President Michael Sata’s government to provide pesticides and other resources so farmers can combat a plague of army worms threatening the country’s food security.  

The worms, also known as caterpillars, have invaded farmland in the country’s central, southern and eastern provinces destroying Zambia’s staple crop, maize.

Coillard Hamusimbi, head of the ZNFU’s Outreach and Membership Services said farmers could lose their crops and pastures if quick action is not taken to fight the infestation.

"The situation is very serious.  It has affected most of our traditional maize-growing areas.  These are provinces [include the] eastern province, central province and southern province.  [A] majority of the farmers who are affected are small-scale farmers who produce more than 90 percent of the national maize crop,” he said.

Hamusimbi said, although the army worms are a rare occurrence in Zambia, the unusually hot November temperatures might have created an environment conducive for their breeding.

He said the farmers’ union has been advising farmers on the type of pesticides to use in controlling the caterpillars.  

Butty interview with Hamusimbi

But, Hamusimbi said not all farmers have the financial means to purchase the recommended pesticides.

Hamusimbi said the Zambian government, through the Ministry of Agriculture, has increased efforts to help farmers control the pests.

“They are giving out pesticides to farmers who can afford it so that they can spray, and there also plans to see how some of the farmers could replant their crops,” Hamusimbi said.

He said the farmers’ union has advised farmers to increase inspection of their fields for army worms and to alert their agriculture extension officers as soon as they detect caterpillar infestations in their fields.