Pressure mounts on SADC region to deal with fall armyworm infestation

The Agriculture Department has confirmed it’s also been positively identified in several provinces in SA, including Gauteng.

An armyworm caterpillar eating kernels of maize. Picture: Centre for Agriculture and Biosciences International.

JOHANNESBURG – Pressure is mounting on the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region to come up with a proper strategy to avert the spread of the fall armyworm.

The Agriculture Department is due to attend a conference this week in Zimbabwe with various stakeholders from the region, aimed at finding a way to curb the spread of the pest.

The worm, which originates from Brazil, has already been detected and destroyed maize crops in Zimbabwe, Zambia and Malawi, sparking concerns of a potential food shortage.

The department has confirmed that it’s also been positively identified in several provinces in South Africa, including Gauteng.

The fall armyworm has affected a number of SADC countries and officials from the Agriculture Department will this week put their heads together with other regional stakeholders in a bid to stop the spread of the pest.

The department’s Bomikazi Molapo says, “To try and come up with a strategy that we’ll use regionally with all the SADC countries.”

In the meantime, Molapo has called on farmers to be more vigilant and inspect their crops in order to detect the fall armyworm early.

“Because the most effective way to deal with it is when it is still in its smallest form.”

The infestation appears to be spreading rapidly across South Africa, it has already been picked up in the North West, Free State and Limpopo.

(Edited by Leeto M Khoza)