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Armyworms destroy maize farms in western Tanzania       

ARUSHA, Tanzania, (Xinhua) -- Armyworms said to have entered Tanzania from neighboring Zambia have destroyed hundreds of hectares of maize planted this year in the country’s western region of Rukwa, authorities said Tuesday.

Nkasi District is the highly affected area in Rukwa Region whose population depends on maize for food and cash.

Authorities in the affected area warned that unless the worm invasion in the area was contained, it would spread to other parts of the country.

The worms’ invasion poses serious food security concerns in the area and the country at large taking into account that Rukwa is one of the regions which are the bread basket of the east African nation.

“We noticed recently that some worms were eating up the leaves of our maize plants. So we told our colleagues that if we don’t spray our farms then we cannot harvest anything. We have sprayed our farms five times already but the worms keep coming back,” said John Pangameza, one of the smallholder farmers in Nkasi District.

He said that many farmers in the area are almost giving up on the fight against the worms.

Permin Matumizi, acting agricultural officer in the district confirmed the invasion, saying that worms have affected almost all farms in the district, noting that efforts by farmers to apply pesticides failed as the army worms don’t respond to pesticides.

The official named the highly affected villages as Itekesya and Ntemba in Kate ward.

He described the pests as dangerous; hence concerted efforts are needed to address the vice, which is threatening food security for the 2017/2018 fiscal year.

“At our district level, we have tried to ensure that pesticides are available, though these kinds of armyworms don’t respond to our pesticides,” he said.

Permanent Secretary of Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, and Fisheries Mathew Mtigumwe said that the government was aware of the presence of new species of army worms in the Nkasi district Rukwa region, which get in the country from neighboring Zambia.

“The ministry’s study shows that the army worms that have stormed Nkasi District are new species known as fall armyworms that hit maize crops,” he said.

“We have been forced to procure new pesticides after we come to notice that the present army worms are new species which cannot be controlled by the available pesticides,” PS detailed.

He said that the government had bought pesticides of about 15,000 liters worth 132,439 US dollars to curb the army worms.

According to him, the government is currently embarking on various initiatives to control the situation in various regions include Katavi, Mbeya and Songwe.

According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the presence of fall armyworm in Africa was first reported on the island nation of Sao Tome and Principe in January 2016 and spread to Nigeria and Ghana before hitting South Africa, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Zambia, Namibia and Mozambique.




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