By Chimwemwe Njoloma – Mana.
The Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development has reiterated that farmers in the country should not panic over reports of desert locusts that are destroying crops in East African countries.
Farmers in the country have expressed fear that the desert locusts may migrate to Malawi and wreak havoc on their crops.
Speaking in an interview on Tuesday, Chairlady for Chitipa Women Forum, an organization that coordinates issues on women in agriculture, Lucy Silumbu was worried that Chitipa could most likely be the first district to be affected since it boarders Tanzania which has been affected.
She said, despite being assured by extension workers in the district, chances of the swarms migrating to Malawi were very high, posing a threat to most farmers who haven’t yet identified any means of protecting their crops from the locusts.
“We are very scared that we may be next because the swarms migrate with wind and Tanzania is just near,” said Silumbu.
However, spokesperson in the Ministry of Agriculture, Priscilla Mateyu said Malawi has never had desert locusts because there is no breeding ground hence the continuous assurance to farmers not to panic.
“The ones that are attacking the East African region are called deserts locusts and those that normally attack Malawi are called red locusts. We do not have breeding grounds for desert locusts and chances of them moving to Malawi are very minimal,” said Mateyu.
Mateyu however, called upon farmers to continue doing constant field checks for pests and diseases so that government can come in to assist in cases of any attacks and infestations.
Executive Director for Civil Society Network on Climate Change (Cisonecc), Julius Ng’oma urged government and other stakeholders not to relax.
“Locusts and pests are a disaster waiting to happen but we can proactively manage such with good preparations,” said Ng’oma.
He added that it was high time government and stakeholders critically thought and invested in multi-hazard risk assessments well informed by climate change and disaster risk management plans.
In 2016 and 2017, red locusts invaded Shire Valley and Mulanje where they destroyed crops leaving some households food insecure.