Zim faces locust invasion

Zimbabwe faces a red locust invasion which further threatens maize and wheat yields, as the country battles to control fall army worm that has ravaged crops.

The red locusts — a large grasshopper species — are aggressive and destructive crop-eating pests that move in swarms, feeding on vegetation in its path.

International Red Locust Control Organisation for Central and Southern Africa (IRLO-CSA) director, Moses Okhoba, told an emergency regional meeting on trans-boundary crop pests and animal diseases in Harare yesterday that southern African states, including Zimbabwe, faced yet another failed agricultural season, due to the pests.

“We (Zambia) have…lost 1 600 hectares to the locust…and we’re currently on the ground trying to contain it,” he said.

“…if they are allowed to continue developing…all the countries in the southern region are in grave danger,” Okhoba said, adding that “as you know, when fully grown, the red locust can move up to 200km per hour, depending on the wind direction”.

“…a swarm of red locusts can be made up of 40 million insects, each one breeding on its own weight of about two grammes a day.”

“Therefore, a swarm will be eating about 80 million metric tonnes a day until you are able to control it,” Okhoba said.

The situation could be made dire by the fact that many southern African States do not have the equipment or capacity to contain the red locust.

“The capacity of the region to control this locust is very limited.

“I can count the equipment available (in the whole region),” he said.

“So, we need to look at how best we can deal with this pest. The locust we are dealing with in Zambia can affect the north and south of Zambia with equal measure . . . the situation is bad for food security.”

His alert comes amid mounting fears Zimbabwe’s maize yield could be completely wiped out by invasive pests.

Last Thursday, the Zimbabwe government said it was struggling to limit crop damage from the dangerous fall armyworm.

Agriculture minister Joseph Made told Senate government was taking measures to determine the extent of damage from caused by the crop-eating fall armyworm.

Food and Agricultural Organisation sub-regional coordinator for southern Africa David Phiri said apart from the fall armyworm, the region also faces a number of other crop pest threats.

“The tomato leafminer Tuta absoluta,…has caused serious losses, and disrupted tomato trade between some countries in the region,” he said.

“…in the livestock sector, the highly pathogenic avian influenza H5N8 which has been reported in many areas of the world, mostly in the Northern hemisphere, so far, has broken out in Uganda, killing thousands of migratory wild birds and has spread to domestic poultry with high mortality reported,” Phiri said.

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