MALAWI – The Japanese government has availed more than US$293000 (K222.6 Million) to fund a project that seeks fight fall and African armyworms in Malawi.

The project dubbed “Strengthening, monitoring and early warning system for migratory pests of major food crops,” seeks to boost pest surveillance and control efforts in the country.

The outbreak has affected more than 375,000 hectares of maize depriving opportunity of bumper brought by favourable weather, reports Malawi News Agency.

Speaking during the launch in Lilongwe, Japanese Ambassador to Malawi, Kae Yanagisawa, said the intervention aims to strengthen the establishment and rolling out at national level of the fall armyworms early warning system and community based African armyworm surveillance system.

“The Project will build the capacity of 1,200 extension workers from Ministry of Agriculture and 600, 000 smallholder farmers to monitor, prepare for, and effectively respond to both armyworm outbreaks,” Yanagisawa said.

She added that the project would enhance integration of state-of the art surveillance and monitoring of both armyworms into national integrated pest management strategy.

This according to her, is a major tool for timely and effective management of these two major pests and for sustainably securing increased productivity.

The Ambassador pointed out that the project goal is to reduce threats to food and nutrition security due to outbreaks of both armyworms.

Chief Director for the Ministry, Dr. Yamira Ntupanyama said that for the past three season’s farmers have been hit hard by outbreaks of both armyworms which has marginally reducing output.

“We usually experience outbreaks of fall and African armyworm almost every year through since 2017, there has not been significant outbreaks of the AAW (African Armyworm),” she said.

Ntupanyama added that fall armyworm is the major pest of maize during the rainy season which has compelled farmers to use huge quantities of pesticides in maize production.

“Farmers are applying various pest control options with chemical control being widely used and dependency on pesticides is not a sustainable way of managing the problem.

“It requires huge amount of resources for purchase of pesticides and if not well managed, it can be a hazard to the farmers and the environment,” she pointed out.

Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Representative in Malawi, Dr. Zhijun Chen said they have developed a mobile application system known as Fall Armyworm Monitoring and Early Warning System (FAMWES) which would be rolled out to all the districts through this project.

“This application is used when farmers are scouting in the field to generate infestation levels automatically and apply management solutions depending on the action thresholds,” he said.

The one year project will be implemented by FAO in collaboration with Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development and will run through to March 30, 2020.