In 1957 in the continents of North America and South America which are
collectively known as the Americas, a menacing caterpillar which eats crops
was discovered. The African army-worm (Spodoptera exempta) which is also
known as Okalombo, Kommandowurm or nutgrass army-worm is an African moth which holds a history of globally threatening food security. In 2016 the army-worm arrived in the South African Development Community (SADEC) in countries like Zambia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Malawi. Its arrival in
SADEC does not represent it being the first in the continent as two years back it was in Nigeria and the island nation of Sao Tome and Principe. The armyworm continued to spread in continent and now in the SADEC region. Today it has arrived in South Africa busy causing serious harm.
This dangerous worm leaves on cabbage, beans, rice,wheat, sorghum and corn. It has never been well managed because it keeps evolving and there is a continuous debate about what it is. Now that it is rapidly spreading there is an urgent need to develop local solutions building on Western experience and other African methods applied in other African countries to stop the worse from occurring. With Africans not very sure how it reached the continent, we must be sure of quick solution.
It arrives at a time when food security is already under threat. It comes at a time when most countries in the region have challenges of drought which has already reduced our crop production. Regional leaders must declare a state of emergency and bring empirical solutions beyond paying lip service. The United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organisation already confirmed that failure to bring the worm under control will mean a wider spread beyond what is already transpiring. This can get very bad and as Africans we do not need that.
We must declare this state of emergency because maize is a staple food for our people in the region. It being in South Africa which is the region’s largest producer of maize threatens job security and will subsequently affect the living conditions of our people. A people who are already living in poverty, with high unemployment rate and hunger. This will bring the price of maize and other foods to horrifying high prices which our people will not afford. Failure to manage this can only make matters worse.
African leaders must halt this from occurring. With no fail, we must continuously strive to make the living conditions of our people better.
Governments must urgently channel money into farming communities and insist on insecticide which can assist in killing the worm at an early age. There needs to be urgent workshops and training to alert farmers of other methods of dealing with the pandemic like, digging trenches, employing natural predators like birds eating the worm or even at worse burning the crops. These being just a few ideas, many more must be brought forward and best models which have been tried elsewhere ought to be applied. The farming community needs to be fully capacitated. African governments must urgently act on this.
There is a need for a co-coordinated approach to this problem because its
existence will also affect regional trade. African countries which have not yet experienced this must urgently start preparing for the sad eventuality, they must avoid to be caught wanting. We must not allow such a worm to reverse our gains as a people.
Rhulani Thembi Siweya is the founder of Africa Unmasked, she is also an NEC member of the ANCYL and writes in her personal capacity.