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Locusts destroy Zambezi crop fields

2024-03-15  Albertina Nakale

Locusts destroy Zambezi crop fields

KATIMA MULILO - Many crop farmers in Zambezi are on the verge of starvation due to the outbreak of migratory red locusts detected in the region, which have caused havoc in crop fields.  The affected farmers expressed fear of severe hunger because of the swarms of locusts which invaded their fields, compounded by the effects of a lack of rain in the region.  Rainfall has been below average since January to date, which caused many crops to dry up due to the scorching sun.

On a good harvest, these farmers would produce up to 98 bags of maize, which they sell to the Agro-Marketing and Trade Agency (AMTA) and local millers.

A 50kg bag of maize costs anything between N$300 to N$500. 

An affected farmer, 71-year-old Zock Matengu from Kanono, said this year’s drought is unprecedented.

“I am farming in the Kweha area. To tell you the truth, we have never seen such a situation. I am 71 years old, but I have never seen this. If the government doesn’t feed people, they will die. Even I am going to die if we don’t get food urgently. You can plough 20 hectares, but you will get a zero harvest. The problem is there has been no rain since January up to now. Government must come and help us to save lives,” he said.

He ploughed seven hectares, but the locusts have also invaded his field.

The agriculture ministry reported that there is a presence of African migratory red locusts in some parts of the Zambezi region, as well as in the Ohangwena region.
Agriculture ministry executive director Ndiyakupi Nghituwamata said the locusts have been detected and reported from 29 February 2024 in Zambezi; mainly around Lake Liambezi and Old Masokotwani, destroying maize crops.
The ministry found that approximately 10 hectares of crop fields have been destroyed.

New Era this week visited some of the affected crop farmers in Old Masokotwani, Kanono, Shaile and Chinchimani, who shared their sad tales as these locusts continue to terrorise their fields.

Although the agriculture ministry announced that they deployed extension officers to affected areas in Zambezi, some farmers expressed disappointment that the officials never visited their farms to spray and try to save their crops.

One such devasted crop farmer is 29-year-old Mwanangobe Pumulo, who farms maize on 11-hectare farmland in Old Masokotwani.

“Some grasshoppers are flying around and eating my maize. I reported this to the ministry of agriculture, but they did not come to help me so that the locusts could stop eating my crops. I reported the matter two weeks ago. I expect these locusts will eat the whole system of my farm. I lost half of a hectare. They are still busy eating day and night,” Pumulo complained as he hopelessly watched the locusts devouring his maize.

Another affected farmer is induna (headman) Chrispin Mweti of Mweti village.

He said he started ploughing in November last year. However, the rain was insufficient.

“December, we got small showers, and then it disappeared until now. The fields are completely dry. We are affected here. We don’t have food. We don’t have even little grains. Government must look at us, otherwise people will die,” he expressed.

On the locusts, he said they noticed the swarms as early as January, and these started invading the fields in February.

“We reported the matter to agriculture, but we are still waiting. These locusts are going to breed and cover the whole area of Zambezi. The result will be complete hunger. The government must support us and get us an areophane to spray as it’s a big area. Vehicle spraying will not be helpful now. Even workers will not manage. If we get a plane, it’s better,” he pleaded.

He also asked whether the government could install a community borehole, as humans and livestock have no drinking water.  The people of Old Masokotwani and nearby areas depend on digging wells in search of water for their consumption and their animals.

Unemployed Mwaka Mautu is also devasted by locusts which invaded her field.

“I don’t know how I can survive this year. There will be no harvest. I noticed worms in January and February while I was weeding. They enter the maize stalks and eat the heart of the plant, and it dies. I planted two hectares, and it is all destroyed. I lost the whole two hectares,” she lamented.

She said on a good harvest, she produces 78 bags of maize.

Mautu also reported the matter to the agriculture ministry on Monday, and is still waiting for them to come and spray her field so that the eggs can be destroyed with the hope that next year, she can replant her maize.

“I am asking assistance from the government in terms of providing seeds for next year. I used a private tractor to plough, which is expensive [N$1 200 per hectare]. Where will I get money again”? I lost N$2 000 on weeding the field,” she complained.

Another farmer with a disability, Pumulo Mweti, expressed sadness when he looked at his crop field dry up day by day due to a lack of rainfall.

“My heart is broken. You can see I am using an artificial leg, but I worked so hard. The rain, however, stopped around December. The whole of January and February, it didn’t rain. I ploughed 12 hectares, but I wasted my money, as I will get nothing here. Even my sunflowers dried up. I am not employed. I normally sell maize from my field. This year, I won’t get anything. There is no source of water we can use to irrigate the fields. We need food otherwise, we will die of hunger. I have children to feed,” Mweti stated.

He is thus pleading with the government to assist him with maize seeds for the next ploughing season. 

Brenda Bwendo, an unemployed woman, said she noticed the locusts last week, and they have destroyed her crops as well.

“I am affected by locusts and the sun that burned my maize. I ploughed six hectares, but I don’t see any harvest here. On a good harvest, I used to get 180 bags of 50kg maize, which I would sell to AMTA to sustain my family. Now, we have nothing. Government must come help spray our fields,” she pleaded.
Other affected communal farmers are around Kapani, Linyanti, Nakabolelwa, Masikili, Isuswa, Ioma, Mutikitila, Ibbu, Mahundu, Ngala, Kapani, Chinchimani, Singobeka, Maunga, Sangwali and Oshikunde (in Ohangwena).

Agriculture spokesperson Jona Musheko said he would go and see the affected farmers before he could make an official comment.

Pic: Locusts


2024-03-15  Albertina Nakale

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