GNA feature by Isaac Arko,
July 12, GNA - Large hectares of vegetable and maize farms in parts of Assin,
have been ruined by armyworms, something that is threatening food security and
has left many farmers impoverished.
destruction of food crop farms by the worms remains a serious threat to Ghana’s
food security, in spite of the assurance by officials of the Food and
Agriculture Ministry (MoFA) that the pest attack is under control.
recent media reports about the resurgence of the fall armyworms in parts of the
In the Central
Region, a total of about 19 districts with a combined farmer population of over
four million farmers, are reported to have come under the pest attack.
The worms lay
their eggs on leaves and tiny caterpillars emerge from the eggs within three
days to launch massive onslaught on food crops, flowers and stalk - impeding
They feed on
variety of crops - maize, cotton, soya-beans, potatoes and cash crops like
the distribution of large quantities of chemicals to farmers across the
country, to tackle the fall armyworm, more than 1,350 hectares of maize farms
came under invasion, last year.
Wodzrah, the Central Regional Director, says over 14,000 farms were ravaged in
farmers in the Assin South, Central and North Districts have resorted to
unconventional and crude methods to fight the ruinous worms.
Kofi Akwanu, a
26-year-old father of two, who has cultivated a three-acre maize farm, about
five kilometres away from the Assin Fosu, told the Ghana News Agency (GNA) that
they had found their own way of battling the pest.
He pours a
bucket full of water into a yellowish watering can, containing a mixture of Omo
- a washing powder, powdered pepper and salt, forming a reddish solution and
there he goes – ready to wipe out the crop damaging fall armyworms.
He sprays the
leaves of the meter-tall maize plants with the solution, claiming, it had
proven to be effective in neutralizing the destructive insects.
Many farmers in
the area are increasingly resorting to spraying their maize farms using the
crudely prepared solution.
The worms can
grow up to 50 millimetres (two inches), nestle in the leaves around the head of
the maize and then begin their attack, leaving behind shredded leaves and
chewed or hollowed ears of corn.
Two days after
Mr Akwanu had sprayed his farm with the Omo, pepper and salt solution, he took
this reporter to his farm to confirm the results and it was amazing. The
innocuous brown and beige crop devouring caterpillars were found dead.
Visits to a
number of farming communities including Abodweseso, Kwafokrom, Yaw Boamah and
Adadientem in the Assin South District showed massive invasion of farms by the
nearly a quarter of my income last year due to the armyworm outbreak" said
Williams Kwame Odame, a farmer in Homaho.
The 55-year old
local chief farmer said "the attack was very fast and furious. In a short
while, huge swathes of (crops) had been eaten. I lost 50 percent of my crop,
others up to 70 percent."
De-Graft Sackey, the District Director of Agriculture, confirmed the practice
and said that they could not immediately tell the socio-economic and health
consequences of the unconventional method the farmers were using to tackle the
that their "elimination will be quiet difficult.
“They have come
to stay and the earlier farmers accepted the advice on the worms control
mechanisms from extension agents, the better for us all.
immediately do away with them, it not only difficult but almost impossible to
get them out due to bad agronomic practices by farmers".
He said they
had stepped up public education.
communities visited, some farmers spoke about organic control methods, they had
found more effective for overcoming the armyworms than the use of the
“Omo-pepper-salt” solution and the MoFA’s recommended chemical.
They are using
a bio-pesticide called "Nimbecidine". This bio-pesticide produced
from the neem-tree is not only able to control the fall armyworm, but also
aphids, leaf miners, mites, whiteflies, thrips and wireworms. It prevents the
pests from feeding on food crops and interferes with their ability to lay eggs.
There is yet
another method which involves the use of "pyrethrum". The white
flowers in pyrethrum are picked on a warm day when they are open, dried and
stored in an airtight container in the dark.
Boakye, a-38-year-old cocoa farmer, said the worms had also invaded cocoa
farms, destroying the leaves and pods.
strong conviction that the pests could be controlled with garlic, given to its
Ninkyiso, a predominantly farming community about ten kilometres away from
Bereku, the district capital of the Assin North, Nana Badu Apewosika, described
the fall armyworm attack as heart-breaking.
farmers in the area have been using Noni oil and "Acheampong" (herb)
a common weed, to spray their fields.
He said farms
in a number of villages including Akonfodi, Breku, Brofoyedru, Abodweseso,
Nkwanta and Odumasi had been ravaged by the worms.
armyworms are wreaking havoc on farms – laying waste investments made by
The worms are
increasingly becoming a huge disincentive to farming and need to be tackled.
They have not
been destroying only cereal crops but tree crops - something the farmers find
shocking and unbelievable.
Osei-Poku, the Assin North Municipal Crops Officer of the Department of
Agriculture, urged the farmers to stop using self-made liquid mixtures to fight
the rampaging fall armyworms.
He told the GNA
that his office had been providing advisory services to the farmers.
made to stop the spread of the insects by alternating maize with other crops
between seasons, but the caterpillar simply switched to bananas, millet and
sorghum before returning to maize during the next harvest.
What this means
is that the armyworm quickly develops resistance to prolonged use of the same
are using detergents, and they have actually told us it works, farmers have
also used other methods like ash (sprinkled on the cobs) - it worked for some -
and some of them are putting soil in the (hole on top) of the crop to suffocate
He added the
use of pesticides in general “is resisted by farmers”. They avoid using them,
particularly, on their maize farms.
has taken everyone here by surprise. At first, the worms were not even
recognised. They were mistaken for the local, less voracious and
easier-to-combat "African armyworm" - another brownish, caterpillar
the size of a child's pinky.”
Odai-Tettey, Regional Director of the Food and Drugs Authority (FDA), said the
use of poisonous chemicals on food especially vegetables could have dire health
implications and asked that farmers stopped the use of any untested and
uncertified liquid mixture.
might bring short term good results but the medium to long term implications
could be disastrous not just for the agriculture sector but also for humans.
comprehensive scientific research to know the residue levels of the liquid
mixtures and health implications has been done.
He called for
MoFA to resource its district managers to carry out sustained public education
to discourage the use of the unapproved solutions.
Mr Kwabina Blewu,
the Assin South District Director of NADMO, however, underlined the
determination of the disaster management organization to work together with
MoFA and the Regional Coordinating Council to combat the fall armyworm,
threatening the livelihood of farmers.
farmers to report any attack on their farms early to the agriculture extension
officers and NADMO and to spray their farms regularly, in accordance with
expert advice, to ward off the fall armyworm.