Government Acts On Worms

The Ministry of Agriculture Water and Forestry (MAWF) has stepped in to assist hundreds of farmers affected by the outbreak of bollworms that are feeding on immature mahangu grains.

The attack was discovered last week by famers in the regions of Oshikoto, Oshana, Omusati and Ohangwena, and some already fear poor harvest and asked for the government’s intervention. So far the Oshana Region is the hardest hit with the Okaku, Okatjali, Ondangwa, Uukwiyuushona and Ongwediva constituencies worst off. Agricultural technicians and assistants in the MAWF are now hard at work aising farmers in villages to try and use the traditional and biological methods to control the worms. Josua Antonio, one of the agricultural technicians, maintains that the use of pesticide which most famers were asking for can be harmful to the ecosystem. He adds that after officials met and educated the farmers about the negative impact that comes with the use of pesticide, most farmers opted to use biological ways to control the worms, and so far there are only two farmers who have agreed to the use of pesticide.

“If you use pesticide on your field, nobody should walk in there for sometime and people cannot consume any produce from that field for at least a month, and this time is a critical time when people are supposed to be consuming watermelon, traditional spinach and beans among others,” explains Antonio.

He further maintains that the use of pesticide can be dangerous to children who may steal and eat watermelons from mahangu fields.

Lucia Iipinge, Agricultural Technician in the MAWF, says although she has never seen the bollworms before, elders in the villages says they have many years ago and used some traditional ways to control them.

Other means of controlling the worms include allowing birds and chickens to feed on the worms, hand picking and shacking them off the crops.

“Our people love chasing the birds away from mahangu fields or killing the birds, but the birds are feeding off the worms. We should let the birds be,” says Iipinge.

He adds that the bollworms breed thousands of eggs inside the head of an immature millet, and the little worms would start feeding from inside.

Wilhelmina Gideon from Okaku village in Oshana region noticed the worms covering the mahangu crops last week. Gideon’s family then started to collect plastic bags filled with the worms and burned them, but the method did not prove to be very successful. Good rains received during March resulted in good crops and the prospects of equally good harvests, but the outbreak of bollworms has put a damper on the expectations.

“These worms are increasing every day. If you come here in the morning you’ll realise that the crops heads are covered, but they disappear as the sun rises,” explains meme Anna Ashikoto from Oluhwa village, also in the Oshana region.

Meekulu Anna Fillemon, also an elderly from the same village, says she has saw the bollworm or similar worms many years ago, but the worms were not as many as the current ones.She adds that villagers used to control the worms by digging trapping channels around the mahangu fields, and by hand picking and burning the worms and it worked.

Source : New Era