Omuthiya-The outbreak of various pests including worms that have invaded crop fields in the Oshikoto Region in recent weeks is likely to reduce by 50 to 60 percent the envisaged harvests, despite some good rains.
Although not all areas are affected those farmers whose fields are under attack will feel the pinch, throwing them back to the same ordeal they suffered during the past three years under the ravaging drought.
Areas believed to be the most affected are Amilema, Omutse Gwonime and Onankali. Farmers are now in a fix as the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry’s regional office has little means to assist them as they rely on support from the head office.
One extension officer who refused to be named, as he is not allowed to speak to the press, described the situation as being worse than before and difficult to address as there are a lot of different pests, including worms and other unidentified insects that are attacking the crops.
The known pests are corn crickets and army worms. “Corn crickets are feeding on flowering and premature grains, hence those farmers that cultivated their fields early will be spared as the grains now might have matured and become hard thus crickets cannot feed on them. The other problem is that some small insects have been feeding on seeds for two to three days after cultivation, which prevented germination of some crops.”
Some farmers with financial means rely on buying pesticides and treat their fields on their own, something which the officer said they do not recommend to some farmers as some chemicals are poisonous and hence are a risk as they would not know how to use them.
“It is a bit sensitive to recommend chemicals to farmers because not everyone knows and understands the danger involved – neither will they follow the necessary precautions. That’s why we cannot tell them which chemicals they can use. In addition to this we do not have the human power to assist all communities as you might find one extension officer is responsible for over 4 000 households or fields,” he stated.
Meanwhile a local farmer, Moses Amukoto, whose entire field of mahangu is affected by the army worm, said he now plans to buy pesticides and treat his crops as he has been informed that the ministry is unable to assist farmers despite having received numerous reports.
“We have received numerous reports but what we do is to pass the report on to higher offices and we then wait for responses and what action should be taken, but it sometimes takes months before a decision can be taken,” explained the extension officer.