Government has procured about 4,166 litres of a recommended pesticide using the US$500,000 grant provided by the African Development Bank (AfDB) to help fight the fall army worm epidemic that have engulfed maize fields in the country.

Fall army worms have consistently ravaged maize fields in the last few farming seasons in Zambia and other southern African countries, compelling the AfDB to come to Zambia’s aid with funds granted to the Ministry of Agriculture on January 7, 2019.

In an interview, Agriculture Minister Michael Katambo disclosed that all districts in Lusaka had been affected by the army worms, but assured that government had already distributed about 2,500 litres of the pesticide to all Lusaka farmers to combat the pests.

Katambo said a team of scientists had been deployed to all affected districts to find out if there could be a lasting solution to fall army worms that had consistently infested maize fields in recent years.

“We’ve gotten a report that Chongwe is one of the districts that is affected by these ravaging fall army worms. But then Rufunsa, Chilanga, Neganega… in short, the whole Lusaka Province has been affected. But government is showing its commitment to find the pests and we have engaged our cooperating partners, the African Development Bank, who gave us about US $500,000. Of course, in our (own) budget, we have also set aside K18.6 million in the 2019-2020 budget for pests disease management and control this farming season. So, we have these funds and we procured about 4,166 litres of the recommended pesticide of which we have distributed about 2,500 litres to Lusaka Province and Chongwe District is a beneficiary,” Katambo said.

“Our field officers and extension officers with the district agricultural officers within the districts are engaging farmers and those that are affected to receive these chemicals that His Excellency the President has managed to give our farmers. The break out of these pesticides has not been at the same time. Certain provinces indicated the pests started being noticed late in December last year and beginning of January this year. But when it’s raining, it is also helping to kill and suffocate the pests. But obviously, this hard working government of President Lungu has procured pesticides where all farmers can benefit.”

He assured that a team of experts were working around the clock to find a permanent solution to the army worms.

“We have the Zambia Agriculture Research Institute (ZARI), which is working with other agriculture organisations and other SADC countries within the region to carry out investigations and find a lasting solution to these fall army worms. What is worth noting is that climate change also contributes to such calamities. The weather patterns also, when it’s too hot, that’s a problem. But when it’s raining like this, the army works are suffocated but when there is sunlight and it’s hot, they also multiply. So, the researches will give us a conclusive report on how we can eradicate these ravaging pests,” said Katambo.