Rains raise harvest hopes in Zimbabwe – but pest brings "misery"

Mon Mar 20, 2017 6:13am GMT

By Busani Bafana

GWANDA, Zimbabwe, March 20 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - After plenty of rain, Isaac Siziba’s maize fields looked set for a bumper harvest this season, similar to the one he gathered in 2014, before Zimbabwe suffered a long and punishing drought.

But last month army worms invaded Siziba’s 4-hectare farm in Gwanda District and munched through his maize. Now he expects just a fifth of the harvest he had counted on.

“We were happy with the good rains this year, which means a bumper crop, but I am not sure anymore because of the worm,” said the 49-year old farmer, pointing to holes gnawed in the leaves of his tassled maize plants.

“I am disappointed,” he admitted. “The pest is eating everything.”

Struggling farmers in Zimbabwe had been hopeful of finally getting a good harvest this month, following the first heavy rains in nearly three years.

But a variety of new problems, from flooding in some regions to the arrival of a destructive Latin American army worm, now threaten to cut harvests and expectations for recovery, the government and development agencies say.

Zimbabwe could still meet its goal of harvesting the 2 million tonnes of grain the country needs this year, if it can stop the army worm invasion, officials say. But the pest may have affected up to 130,000 hectares of the country’s staple maize crop, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said.

That is about 11 percent of the country’s planted maize crop of 1.2 million hectares, according to Joseph Made, Zimbabwe‘s minister of agriculture, mechanisation and irrigation.   Continued...

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