The use of genetically modified maize seed could help control pests such as the fall armyworm which wreaked havoc last crop growing season, an expert has said.
However, controller of Agricultural Extension and Technical Services (Caets) in the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development, Alfred Changaya, said the use of genetically modified organisms (GMO) maize can be the solution but so far, Malawi is still being held because of lack of policies that permit the practice.
“South Africa is using GMO maize which is resistant to stalk bowlers and they have completely dealt away with the stalk bowler, but for Malawi, the practice is not legalised yet,” explained Changaya to Malawi News Agency.
However, he indicated that there is still hope for Malawi to adopt GMO maize usage once government approves the GMO law in future.
Changaya said to control the fall armyworm and other crop pests, the ministry is in the process of screening natural predators to naturally eradicate the worms from maize seeds and sorghum.
“So far, the search for a lasting solution to the fall armyworm outbreak which was first reported in Malawi last December is still underway,” he said.
In 2013, droves of armyworms marched across the fields of this landlocked country in southern Africa, feasting on essential crops and leaving a trail of destruction in their wake.
According to the Government of Malawi’s Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development, the outbreak affected more than 10 900 hectares of land and 23 500 farming families.
In a country where drought and hunger are persistent issues, this infestation dealt a particularly heavy blow to farmers whose livelihoods and food security depend on healthy crops.
Of the districts affected, Balaka and Machinga were among the most heavily impacted by the crisis.