Query: Does the Ministry of Agriculture, Water & Forestry have enough pesticides in place to deal with the armyworm outbreak and is there a budget in place to tackle the armyworm outbreak?
Response: The Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry does not have enough pesticides in stock to combat the outbreak. The armyworm outbreak does not happen every year, but outbreaks occurrence can happen after many years. As such, keeping stockpiles of pesticides to prepare for outbreak is not conducive. As a result the Ministry only stocks a minimum quantity of pesticides that can be used within a recommended time frame. Consequently the Ministry does not keep a large amount of pesticides, due to the fact that it could result in obsolete pesticides, should there be no outbreaks. It should be noted though that funds are limited based on the aforementioned reasons. However, due to the fast spread of the pest and the damage it poses, the Ministry is working on modalities to source more funds through Cabinet, although the outbreak has not yet been declared as a National emergency.
Query: Was the armyworm outbreak detected early enough to be contained, and is this outbreak a threat to food security in Namibia?
Response: Armyworms often go unnoticed in the field until damage is severe. This is because they primarily feed at night. An infestation is hard to detect as these caterpillars migrate to new feeding areas in the cool of the night. In most cases larvae usually go unnoticed until they are approximately an inch long. Infestation to other fields is with the aid of wind, whereby the moth can fly for several kilometres away from where they emerged to other places which makes containment difficult.
This outbreak is a threat to food security, since armyworms larva feed on the foliage of the plant in severe cases especially when plants begin to tassel and cobs are forming – large larva normally feeds on maize cobs. Damage to the cobs is normally much more severe than foliage damage which poses a food security challenge. If cobs are damaged there will be no harvest at all hence food security is threatened.
• Margaret S. Kalo, Senior Public Relations Officer, Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry, E-mail Adress: firstname.lastname@example.org