With extreme weather patterns due to global warming, threatening not only the health of the nation, but food security, threat of crop disease is the last thing in the farmersí minds. And the talk of the deadly Asian fruit fly in the last years is the worst nightmare for the fruit and vegetable farmers.
Asian fruit fly is here, despite efforts by the Botswana Government, and the global community to finish it off. It continues to spell doom for our struggling farmers, as it does for the nation fighting natural elements to feed itself.
Last week, at the end of the two-year management programme to control the Asian fruit flies, the director of crop production in the Ministry of Agriculture, Galeitsiwe Ramokapane noted that the outbreak in 2010 impacted negatively on the fruit and vegetable farming industry.
The fly was first detected in Chobe, and the assumption was that it could have been carried through imports of fruits from neighbouring Zambia, Namibia or Zimbabwe. Less than two years later, in July 2012, another fruit fly outbreak hit the Tuli Block, along the Limpopo River, which runs through the Botswana/South Africa border.
Again, a question of cross-border fruit importation arose, especially since Botswana, being a landlocked country, imports almost all fruits and vegetables from the neighbours, South Africa especially. In May 2013, the fruit fly hit the North East District, now bordering Zimbabwe, the biggest
Since the outbreak more than five years ago, farmers in various parts of the country have experienced huge financial losses. In addition to the losses incurred in pesticides and other ways of fighting the flies, and losing crop, the fruits and vegetables affected by the fruit flies were of low quality, thus reducing market value.
To mitigate against any further attacks to the ailing industry, the government sought help and resources from the international community. In 2014, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) sponsored a 24-months project to the tune of P1.7 million. But, were the funds and the time enough to fight a huge and incurring problem as this? Protecting and securing food for the nation is an expensive and long-term exercise, which needs adequate resources.
Our belief is that greater efforts and resources need to be in place to ensure a lasting solution. Otherwise, next year this time, we will be hearing of more outbreaks in many other parts of the country. This is a serious threat to the nation’s food security.