What is the fall armyworm?
The name is a bit misleading. It is not actually a worm, but a hungry caterpillar that eats crops before turning into a moth.
It is a new pest, not to be confused with the similarly named “African armyworm”, which has been present in the region for many years.
Ghana’s Chamber of Agribusiness Executives says armyworms have invaded farms in the Brong Ahafo Region and parts of the Volta north of the country, threatening the country’s food security.
The Chamber has consequently asked the Ministry of Food and Agriculture to urgently intervene before the army worms invasion, which hit the country a week ago, become widespread cause destruction to large tracts of farmlands. It particularly wants the Ministry to release logistics to agricultural extension officers to begin valuable extension services to farmers, especially those in the affected areas.
“They have to do collective treatment… This requires a holistic approach,” Anthony Selorm K Morrison who is the Executive President of the Chamber told 3News Friday, describing the current invasion which started from Eastern Africa as worrying.
A news report by the East African in April this year, quoted a survey report in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania which estimated 287,000 hectares of maize in East and Southern Africa have since last year been destroyed by armyworms. Armyworms are caterpillars that attack staple cereal crops, such as corn, wheat, sorghum, and rice.
“It’s a worrying issue and if something is not done immediately it can cause food scarcity in the country [Ghana],” Mr Morrison observed, noting that failure to act to prevent further invasion of the army worms could cause prices of cereals to go up in Ghana. He indicated that the parts of the country currently affected by the pest infestation produce over 50 per cent of the cereals consumed in Ghana.
He explained the early rainfall which caused farmers to begin planting their crops and the subsequent weeks of drought experienced is likely to have caused the invasion of the caterpillars into the farms.
The Chamber is warning agrochemical dealers in the country against exploitation of farmers by means of increasing prices of agrochemicals and or hoarding the products since that could have severe consequences on consumers.
“National Security has to step in because the agrochemical dealers will take advantage to make more money in this crisis situation. We need a cogent and compact action from government,” Mr Morrison told 3News. Planting for Food & Jobs under threat? Meanwhile the Chamber said the invasion of armyworms is likely to affect government’s Planting for Food and Jobs programme which was launched by President Akufo-Addo in Goaso in the Brong Ahafo Region last month.
The invasion, he explained, if not well addressed, could discourage people, particularly entrepreneurs from going into the planting of cereal crops under the government’s Planting for Food and Jobs.
The Chamber underscored the need for the Ministry of food and Agriculture to re-evaluate the Planting for Food and Jobs programme to avoid the occurrence of army worm invasion.
It said a number of institutions in the country have “unanimously agreed that though the concept was great, challenges will arise as enough stakeholder consultations was missing in the implementation process and calls for reviews in order to make the project a success”.
It said there is a missing link in the programme, especially with regards to pest control mechanisms and post harvest loss, and thus wants the government to take steps in addressing that. “The Chamber wishes to call on the government to endeavour to provide financial support to all farmers taking part in the project so to make it a success,” it added.