Ghana’s parliament has been asked by the Agriculture Minister to declare a ‘state of emergency’ over an armyworm invasion that threatens a $133m project (560 million cedis).
The sector minister, Dr. Owusu Afriyie, in a memo to the Cabinet asked the legislature to allow unbudgeted funds for a mass spraying exercise to combat the invasion, local media reports.
The Minister is reported to have described the armyworms as being capable of leveling farms to ‘ground zero,’ hence the need for urgent action to avert the looming crisis.
The fall armyworms are caterpillars that “march” across the landscape in large groups feasting on young maize plants, wiping out entire fields.
So far, reports indicate that the armyworms have invaded parts of the country’s food basket areas, the Ashanti, Brong Ahafo and Eastern regions. Farmers in the respective areas are bemoaning financial and yield losses.
The new government recently launched an ambitious Agric project dubbed the ‘Planting for Foods and Jobs Program,’ it is meant to boost the country’s food production and to create jobs for teeming unemployed youth.
The armyworm outbreak on the continental level has already caused damage to staple crops in Zambia, Zimbabwe, South Africa, with reports also suggesting Malawi, Mozambique and Namibia are affected.
According to experts chemicals can be used to deal with the pest in its early stages, but after that, it becomes much harder, and some populations of fall armyworm have developed resistance.
The invasion comes at a time when most of the affected countries especially in Southern and Eastern Africa are suffering from a drought that has left about 2.7 million people in need of food aid.