Natasha Chamba, Business Reporter
A STUDY on the impact of the fall armyworm (FAW) in Eastern Zimbabwe has revealed that if the armyworm spreads throughout the entire country, tonnes of grain to the value of $32 million could be lost.
The study was conducted by an international consultant on agricultural research, Mr Mainassara Abdou Zaman-Allah, in Chipinge and Makoni districts where the presence of the FAW has been known since early 2017.
In the study titled, “Understanding the factors influencing FAW damage in African smallholder maize fields and quantifying its impact on yield. A case study in Eastern Zimbabwe”, an estimated 12 percent of crops are said to be lost annually due to the infestation.
“Although the levels of damage recorded in this research are commensurate with the levels found by other studies conducted on the continent, our best estimate of the impact of this damage on yield (11,57 percent) is much lower than what these studies found.
“If the damage is not dealt with, the FAW can destroy grain worth over $32 million if it spreads across the country,” reads part of the study seen by Business Chronicle.
The study says due to limited coverage in terms of area, Government should intervene so that the study is replicated all over the country.
The FAW is an invasive species in the order of the Lepidoptera pest, established in most of sub-Saharan Africa since 2016.
The study notes that while sub-Saharan governments have been investing in chemical pesticides and control methods based on agronomic management, “little” is known about the most effective agronomic practises that could control FAW under typical African smallholder conditions.
Meanwhile, an Irish humanitarian agency called GOAL has partnered with The International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre (CIMMYT) to fight against the FAW.
The partnership is working towards identifying conditions that promote FAW infestation in order to educate farmers on the best practices to fight the problem.
A senior official from GOAL Zimbabwe is on record as saying the FAW has worsened the food security situation of smallholder farmers.
“The FAW has further worsened the food security situation of smallholder farmers who are already coping with an ailing economy and climate change.
‘Besides the adverse effects posed to the environment by chemical methods of combating the pest, the smallholder farmer cannot afford to meet the associated costs, hence the need to come up with innovative cost-effective farming systems like climate smart agriculture,” he said.