Harare – The false armyworm outbreak is a major threat to the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region, experts said on Tuesday, highlighting the need to step up early warning and response mechanisms.
The United Nations Agency for Food and Agriculture (FAO) is organising a three-day conference on how to tackle the outbreak of the pest in Harare.
“Pests are a major threat to the region and the fall armyworm has damaged maize in a number of countries in the region. It is moving in a north to south trajectory,” David Phiri, FAO sub coodinator for SADC, said on Tuesday.
Zimbabwe, South Africa, Malawi and other countries in the region are among the nations bracing for dire effects emanating from the outbreak of the false armyworm.
The region is emerging from a dry season caused by the El Niño phenomenon. The meteorological department in Zimbabwe has warned that a tropical cyclone could further disrupt agricultural productivity in the country and region.
Phiri said farmers and governments in the region have “incurred costs”, although the full impact of the outbreak on maize productivity in the region is yet to be quantified.
Apart from the armyworm plundering maize, pests such as locusts are also wreaking havoc in Africa. “Other pests are also affecting livestock feedstock production,” added Phiri. Experts said crops such as tomatoes have been affected, which is impacting trade between regional countries.
“Southern Africa should enhance its preparedness for transboundary pests. Resources are required to achieve this,” said Phiri.
The Harare conference is attended by government officials and experts in animal health, agriculture and other areas as well as development and relief agencies.