In Summary
  • An invasion of the maize destroying armyworm in Southern Africa could spread towards East Africa in the next few months.
  • The African Armyworm and the more destructive Fall Armyworm have destroyed almost the entire maize crop in six countries.
  • The pest mostly attacks plants belonging to the grass family like maize and sorghum but it can also ravage beans, groundnuts and Irish potatoes.

If you thought the current drought ravaging many parts of the country was bad enough, then brace yourself for an invasion of the armyworm.

Experts have warned that an invasion of the maize destroying armyworm in Southern Africa could spread towards East Africa in the next few months.

This comes as the Kenyan government says it is on high alert as the pest spreads across the continent.

The African Armyworm and the more destructive Fall Armyworm – a non-indigenous pest that originated from the Americas – have destroyed almost the entire maize crop in six countries.

And while attacks by the African Armyworm are not new on the continent, with the last one being witnessed in Kenya in 2014, it is the first emergence of the Fall Armyworm in southern Africa with the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) reporting crop damage of up to 70 per cent in some areas.

FAO’s sub-regional coordinator for Southern Africa, Mr David Phiri, while issuing a red alert posted on their website, says the situation is constantly evolving.

“The situation remains fluid. Preliminary reports indicate a possible presence of the pest in Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe has positively identified the presence of the pest while the rest are expected to release test results soon,” he said.

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