By Ndafadza Madanha
ON the outskirts of Harare Peter Tsingano who is the manager of Marvel Farm narrates to a delegation comprising the Japanese ambassador to Zimbabwe Toshiyuki Iwado, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and Ministry of Agriculture officials how the Fall Army Worm (FAW) has wrecked havoc on his maize crop planted during the 2018-19 season.
Of the eight hectares put under maize at Marvel Farm five hectares have been affected by the FAW pest which threatens to wipe out 60 percent of the expected harvest.
Since FAW was first detected in Central and Western Africa in early 2016 (Sao Tome and Principe, Nigeria, Benin and Togo) before spreading in late 2016 and 2017 to Zimbabwe and other countries with devastating consequences to both small scale and commercial farmers.
Zimbabwe was the hardest hit in the SADC region by FAW with 130 000 hectares of crop affected.
As Tsingano notes this season the FAW is more pronounced and is likely to lead to reduced yields which were already compromised by below normal rainfall received for 2018-19.
“We have had to contend with FAW for the last three seasons but this year it was more pronounced and we expect loses to be up to 60 percent. Of the 8 hectares under maize 5 were affected and the situation was aggravated by the unavailability of chemicals.
Also the FAW is resistant to some pesticides and we had to use two pesticides which failed to stop the spread, when we finally got a pesticide to control them it was in short supply. Even our yield will be greatly reduced we expect to get 10-12 tonnes per hectare but if it was not for the worm we could have done more”.
FAO regional co-ordinator for Southern Africa Alain Onibon whose organization undertook a project with the government of Zimbabwe through a US$500 000 support by the Japanese embassy to mitigate effects of FAW and Avian flu among small holder farmers said more needed to be done to equip communities and safeguard their livelihoods.
“Agriculture provides employment and income for around 70 percent of the population. With farmers in the country still struggling to cope with effects of successive droughts in recent years, an uncontrolled outbreak of FAW or HPAI would only compound the effects on food security and people’s livelihoods.
The project has, therefore, greatly contributed to the ability of Zimbabwean smallholder farmers to cope with the threats of FAW and HPAI, thus ensuring their livelihoods and food security”.
The programme trained about 600 extension officers on FAW and integrated pest management systems while through mass communication campaigns on FAW about 500 000 farmers were reached.