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Malawi Today: Army Worms Destory Crops
An outbreak of army worms have destroyed growing crops in Malawi, which is facing a food crisis and drought. Pesticides that expired in 1999 don't seem to help matters much.
Blantyre, Malawi, 01/03 - An outbreak of army worms in Malawi`s central lakeshore district of Salima, some 100-km east of the capital, Lilongwe, could compound the country`s already biting food crisis, a senior agriculture scientist said Monday.
Shira Kang`ombe, the Salima Agriculture Development Officer, said the worms had already destroyed over 400 hectares of maize seedlings in the district.
"The army worms have completely destroyed the maize that had germinated quite promisingly," she said, adding: "There will be tragedy if farmers do not replant."
Salima is among Malawi districts worst hit by food crisis with some villagers now surviving on bamboo seeds.
Kang`ombe said most of the crops attacked by the worms were planted with seeds procured through a government-subsidy programme.
Most farmers have complained that the pesticide they were given to control the outbreak has been ineffective.
Kang`ombe confirmed that the lifespan of the pesticide - Dorsban - had expired in 1999.
"The only pesticides we have is Dorsban but (it`s shelve life) expired in 1999. It can only work if the dosage is doubled," she said, explaining however, that farmers could buy another pesticide - Cymecegin - from the shops.
Army worms are caterpillar variant of moths, which defoliate crops within a short time resulting in the loss of chlorophyll which is important for the healthy growth of crops.
Malawi is among the six southern African countries facing acute food shortage following prolonged drought that cut production of maize, the country`s staple by 24 percent.
According to the UN World Food Programme, at least five million Malawians are in urgent need of food aid.