Ministers of Agriculture drawn from central and southern Africa have converged in Lilongwe in Malawi to review their joint efforts in combating red locusts and other migratory pests that threaten food security in the region.
The ministers and other government officials who are drawn from Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania and Zambia are gathered for the 36th regular session of the governing council of ministers of the International Red Locusts Control Organization for Central and Southern Africa.
According to a press statement issued to ZANIS on May 31st by First Secretary for Press at the Zambia High Commission in Malawi Chansa Kabwela, Zambia is being represented by Agriculture and Livestock Deputy Minister Rogers Mwewa and other senior government officials.
Officially opening the meeting yesterday, Malawi’s Minister of Agriculture Peter Mwanza observed that the red locusts and migratory pests still pose a real threat to food security in central and southern Africa.
Mr. Mwanza therefore said these locusts and pests should be managed effectively.
He said the red locusts and other migratory pests such as quelea birds and army worms were still prevalent in central and southern Africa but were constantly being controlled through joint efforts by member states in order to ensure food security.
“Although there has been no locust plague in the region, it is important to note that there have been locusts’ upsurges from time to time that have been effectively managed by the organization. Currently, there are red locusts that require to be managed in Lake Chilwa basin which is shared by Malawi and Mozambique and in Katavi plains of Tanzania,” he explained.
He noted that last year’s farming season saw outbreaks of army worms in central and southern Africa which caused extensive damage to crops and threatened food security.
However, Mr. Mwanza thanked the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and Belgium for the financial support rendered to fight these pests.
He urged member states to honour their financial obligations to the FAO to enable it effectively manage and control the pests which were a serious threat to food security and overall development in the region.
Mr. Mwanza also thanked the Zambian government for the construction of the organization’s headquarters currently underway in Ndola, saying the facility would be useful for relevant research and training of personnel in management.
And Director of the International Red Locusts Control Organisation for central and southern Africa Moses Okhoba said his organization continues to grapple with huge populations of red locusts in Tanzania, Malawi, and Mozambique which require immediate surveillance to prevent a major disaster.
Mr. Okhoba said the surveillance was estimated to cost US$450,000.
He revealed that the organization has managed to control red locusts and other migratory pests since its inception.
Earlier on Tuesday this week, Zambia’s Agriculture and Livestock Deputy Minister Rogers Mwewa undertook a field visit to Malawi’s agriculture projects on the outskirts of Lilongwe.
Mr. Mwewa said Malawi’s implementation of irrigation systems, which were driven by the community and other village product concept, were interesting programmes which could be replicated in Zambia.
Originally initiated in Japan, the one village product concept is a community centered and demand driven regional development programme aimed at encouraging different Malawian communities to concentrate on cultivating or producing and packaging distinctive products which are later offered to the market.
He disclosed that government was already working on ensuring that irrigation throve in Zambia as opposed to relying on rain fed agriculture.
Mr. Mwewa said out of the 120 farmers involved in the irrigation project which he visited in Malawi, 90 were women.
He added that Zambia could also draw lessons as a way of attracting more women into agriculture.
“We took time to see how Malawi is utilizing the Indian line of credit which Zambia has also applied for. We were able to see how Malawi is using the tractors, how much the small scale farmers are paying to utilize them and it is going well. The one village one product is also good because it encourages villages to grow a particular crop and the government helps the farmers by facilitating to ensure value addition to the product,’’ Mr. Mwewa said.