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Plans to control armyworm outbreak

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Ntsebeng Motsoeli

MASERU — About 250 people are undergoing training to equip them with skills to control the recurrence of armyworm outbreak.

The programme, sponsored by the European Commission Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection Directorate General, (ECHO), started on Tuesday and will run until next month.

Earlier this year an armyworm outbreak hit the country causing significant crop damage.

The outbreak saw what promised to be a better harvest season ending badly.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the Ministry of Food and Agriculture have since received funding of more than M30 million from the European Commission Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection Directorate General to prepare for the possible reappearance of the pest.

“Government and FAO’s response plan received financial support from the European Commission Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection Directorate General (ECHO),” statement said.

“Eight districts of Lesotho, including lowlands and Senqu Valley areas registered nearly 35 000 hectares affected in different degrees with Maseru, Berea, Leribe and Mafeteng concentrating around 90 per cent of the affected areas,” it said.

“ECHO’s generous support amounts to US$330 000 (about M3 283 830) and will allow Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security and Food and Agriculture Organisation to conduct  training for extension staff and communities in the functioning of an Early Warning System (EWS) to detect the presence of armyworm before they multiply reaching devastating numbers limiting their impact and the amount of chemicals needed to control them in any future potential outbreak,” it said.

It said that the two institutions have worked together to strengthen control and preparedness capacities to manage more effectively this emerging risk for Lesotho.

The Lesotho Meteorological Services (LMS) will collaborate in the implementation of the EWS since rain patterns are a major factor allowing the reproduction of armyworm, said the press release.

“ECHO funding will also allow to provide the extension network with quality equipment including over 300 sprayers, 400 personal protective equipment kits, 1 000 litres of chemicals, 100 pheromone traps and 100 rain gauges, complementing both control and EWS activities.”

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