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Crop-devastating armyworm caterpillars wreak havoc in Uganda

KAMAPALA– A plague of crop-destroying fall armyworm caterpillars has spread to East Africa where officials confirmed their presence for the first time in Uganda on Friday.

An outbreak of the caterpillars in several southern African nations has already raised alarm with the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation warning they pose “a huge threat to food security”.

Uganda’s Agriculture Minister Vincent Ssempijja said the presence of the innocuous looking but hugely destructive brown caterpillar had been confirmed in over 20 districts of the country.

“This will negatively impact on the nation’s food and nutrition security,” Ssempijja told a press conference in Kampala.

An estimated 10.9 million people already don’t have enough to eat in Uganda, according to a UN report on food insecurity released last month.

Fall armyworms are native to the Americas and were first spotted in Nigeria and Togo last year, with one theory saying that they arrived in Africa on commercial flights from South America or in plants imported from the region.

They have already caused damage to staple crops in Zambia, Zimbabwe, South Africa and Ghana while reports suggest Malawi, Mozambique and Ghana may also be affected.

The caterpillars eat maize, wheat, millet and rice – key food sources in southern and eastern Africa, where many areas are already struggling with shortages after years of severe drought.

They also attack cotton, soybean, potato and tobacco fields.

Chemical pesticides can be effective, but fall armyworms have developed resistance in their native Americas.

In Uganda the caterpillars were spotted in May last year. Samples had to be sent to Australia to determine if they were the native Africa armyworm – less destructive and which responds to pesticides – or the fall armyworm.

“If nothing is done we could lose up to 15% of our maize production,” said senior agriculture minister official Okasai Opolot.

Uganda produces close to four million metric tons of maize grain annually, contributing to the livelihoods of more than 3.6 million households, according to government statistics.

Kampala has set aside $280 000 for emergency response work including distribution of pesticides and educational materials for farmers.

©Alleastafrica and agencies 

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1 comment

rezen Mar 25, 2017 at 7:52 pm

Subject: “Crop-devastating armyworm caterpillars wreak havoc in Uganda” Mar 25, 2017

Commentary, 25 Mar 2017

“Crop-destroying fall armyworm caterpillars has spread to East Africa” so goes the news. That being a fact, wouldn’t it be natural for African States to cooperate in sharing the solution for the common problem? After all, there are highly educated professional Africans in the field of Agriculture. Let’s not forget that “modern” education has been instituted in Africa for not less than 125 years. Despite that physical fact — and unless we adamantly refuse to accept the reality on the ground — “modern” education in Africa has always been a little bit more than a sham! But let us adamantly refuse to accept that demeaning notion.

OK, then the questions gnawing at us are these >>> where are the educated Africans in the field of Agriculture? Have they ever gotten together and discussed PROFESSIONALLY every aspect of AGRICULTURE in Africa? Have they ever shared their knowledge in Agriculture with each other? Have they ever established international co-operative relationship [on an equal level] and glean ideas specifically in their profession (Agriculture)?

And here is another explosive question! Warning: It requires that ‘EDUCATED’ AFRICANS be HONEST to themselves. So here is the question: Have the highly educated professionals in the field of Agriculture ever had honest dialogue with ordinary “uneducated” African farmers on the vast subject of Agriculture? Have they ever tried to glean their ancestors’ practical knowledge in the field of agriculture? No! No! No! their Doctor of Philosophy Degrees wouldn’t permit them to come down to the level of the ordinary ‘illiterate’ farmer of Africa. No, No! It is unthinkable for them to come down to the level of ‘uneducated’ farmers and glean important historical knowledge about how their ancestors tackled their farming problems. No, it is too low for them to stoop down to such a level! Their “modern” education doesn’t permit them to do so.’ Little knowledge is dangerous’, so goes the saying.

A little story is in order. It is about the Great Famine in Ethiopia of the 1970’ s. The world was shocked about the extent of the famine. Alms were pouring from every spot of the world. The concentration – and rightly so – was to provide the immediate need for food and save human beings from starvation to death. The world was very kind – and sensational too!

Then comes the BIG question of what to do in such a catastrophe in the future. An extraordinary modest Japanese-Canadian Academician, enunciated his humble response to the Famine in Ethiopia in these everlasting simple words: “WHY DON’T THEY ASK THE ORDINARY FARMERS – THEY KNOW THEIR FARMS” I REST MY CASE.

I salute DR. David Suzuki not only for the depth of his obvious intellect, which gives deep meaning to “Education” as opposed to simple acquiring of 13 by 15 inch ‘doctorate’ paper, but also for his genuine feeling for Humanity.

THANKS goes to for the privilege of getting free space to express my free opinion — without which WE AFRICANS will never amount to any thing worthy. I hope other Readers take that privilege to join in the building of future AFRICA. We Africans deserve much better than we seem to be tranquil with the crumbs of Life

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