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Zimbabwe has put in place a national response strategy, including training of farmers, to deal with a nationwide fall armyworm outbreak that has threatened to cause significant damage to the staple maize crop.

Permanent secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture Ringson Chitsiko told a parliamentary committee Tuesday that 600 personnel had been deployed throughout the country to train farmers on how to deal with the pest.

He added that the country had procured enough chemicals to control the pest.

The Zimbabwean government is still to establish the full extent of the damage caused by the pest.

The armyworm outbreak, which has affected the entire southern African region, came at a time when the region is still reeling from the effects of two consecutive years of El Nino-induced drought that affected over 40 million people, reduced food availability by 15 percent and caused a cereal deficit of 9 million tonnes.

In Zimbabwe, the drought has left a quarter of the population in need of food aid until the next harvest in March while thousands of cattle have succumbed to water shortage.

The country will next week host an emergency meeting organized by the Food and Agriculture Organization to shape a coordinated response to the armyworm threat in the region.

Originated from the Americas, fall armyworm is a new pest to Africa. Its presence on the continent was first reported in Sao Tome and Principe around January 2016.

The pest is capable of causing extensive crop losses of up to 73 percent depending on existing conditions and is difficult to control with a single type of pesticide, especially when it has reached an advanced larval development stage. Enditem

Source: Xinhua/NewsGhana.com.gh

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