Mass infestation of maize farms by armyworms; farmers abandon farms in despair

The infestation of fall armyworms on maize farms in the Ashanti Region continues to worsen despite efforts by the government to manage the spread of the pests. About 62,627 hectares of maize farms have so far been infested by the dreaded fall armyworm in all the 30 districts of Ashanti Region. The current situation is likely to affect food security in the country, according to food security experts. Livelihoods of over 37,242 farmers in the Ashanti Region are under threat, as a result. Records from the regional directorate of the Plant Protection Regulatory Service Division of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture indicate that out of the 62,627ha of maize farms invaded by the hungry pests in the Region, 36,325ha have been destroyed. This means only 26,748ha of maize farms have been recovered after applying chemicals on the affected farms. Farmers are losing millions of Cedis just few months after the pests invaded the country. The government has set aside GH¢16 million to fight the pest by way of providing farmers with free chemicals but some farmers say they are yet to benefit from that. [caption id="attachment_50562" align="alignnone" width="564"] File photo: Army worms invade a maize farm[/caption] An affected farmer, Kwame Nsiah, has personally applied some chemicals on his farm to control the spread of the pests but has seen no positive result. He wants the government to “quickly intervene and protect them (farmers) from further losing their investments”. A distraught 63-year old farmer, Michael Osei, is tired of applying different types of insecticides to fight the pests. He has benefited from the government’s free mass spraying exercise to control the pests but says his farm has seen no improvement. Mr Osei is now fed up and has given up on his maize farm. He has directed his attention on his rice farm. A 4-member team from the National Taskforce of Fall Armyworm has visited some of the affected farms in various districts across the Region to assess the level of devastation. The team, constituted by MOFA to manage and control the pest, has been in Ashanti Region for two days to conduct rapid surveillance, monitor and control prevention measures in the field as well as create public awareness of the threat posed by the outbreak. The general concern raised by the district MOFA directors is inadequate chemicals to help manage the spread of the pests. Leader of the team, Paul Siameh observed some farmers have abandoned their fields because they have lost hope in fighting the pests. He, however, says the situation is not hopeless as the next consignment of chemicals has been tested to be very effective. “The level of devastation is shocking but the situation is not as hopeless as we thought. Government is committed in the fight against these dreaded pests. Adequate chemicals will soon be delivered to all affected farmers”. Mr Siameh commended COCOBOD for assisting some of the districts with knapsack sprayers to spray the affected farms. Unlike the African armyworm which has been combated, little is known about the fall armyworm except that it originates from America. Its ability to hide in the maize tree stem makes it more difficult to detect and more resistant to pesticides. The pests attack leaves of crops, flowers and even the stalk. The invasion of the fall armyworm on farms puts the GH¢560 million Planting for Food and Jobs program at a serious risk, hence, the need for government to step up its efforts to control the pests.

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By Ibrahim Abubakar||Ghana ]]>