Mmegi Blogs :: BDF should be used to fight armyworm invasion
Last Updated
Thursday 22 February 2018, 23:12 pm.
BDF should be used to fight armyworm invasion

The latest is that southern Africa is faced with is the invasion of armyworms in at least four countries.
By Richard Moleofe Fri 17 Feb 2017, 11:31 am (GMT +2)
Mmegi Blogs :: BDF should be used to fight armyworm invasion

These are Botswana, Malawi, South Africa and Zambia. The worst devastation is found in South Africa where four provinces are under siege.

And what are these insects and their origins? The African armyworm is also known by its scientific name spodoptera exempta. There are several types of armyworms that are found in other parts of the world andthey attack a variety of crops. The African armyworm particularly targets maize crop and may divert to other plant species if its primary diet diminishes in the fields. These caterpillars derive their military name from the way they invade large areas and move with the blitzkrieg speed like the German Panza divisions of the Second World War.

The current example is what has happened in Malawi where these caterpillars have destroyed over 2,000 hectares of crops within a few days. They have spread in to other districts in a short space of time. If you buy maize cobs in this country you will realise that the top end of the fruit has some brown deposits of insect waste These are some droppings from the armyworms. So in short the threat is already with us. The Ministry of Agricultural Developmentn and Food Security has instituted ways of curbing the spread of the worm by putting restrictions for the import of maize. But it seems this has come too late as the pest is already reported in places like Betesankwe and Mosi which form the bread basket in southern Botswana.

Botswana Defence Force’s (BDF) primary role is to fight all foreign and domestic enemies to the country. Now the country has a very formidable enemy in armyworms. So the President as Commander-in-Chief should BDF into good use in this matter. I am not bringing this suggestion because the military organisation is idle as some may come to conclude in their own imaginations. BDF is a standing army and it should come to the country’s assistance in the time of such need. BDF is by far the government’s most resourced department. They can pull resources such as planes in the fight against the armyworm invasion. This will help them to exercise their ability to deal with real life scenarios. Their exercises are often created scenarios which in some way are conditioned by their commanders to fall within certain parameters and scope. But the fight against the armyworm will be determined by nature itself. Last year when Zambia became the first country in southern Africa to be hit by this invasion, the country’s president called the army into action. The Zambian Army did a sterling job in almost eradicating the armyworm.

BDF has in the past been used to combat similar invasions such as the invasion of quillia  birds. Spraying these birds proved to be the number one way of eliminating the birds. Fire bombing was another way of killing the birds.

What is at stake now is the


country’s food security. If the armyworms are left unattended, they will drastically reduce our crop yields and our food security will be seriously threatened. The reason why there has been famines recorded in the history of mankind was for the reason that pests of one kind or another invaded crops.

In 1986, Botswana was invaded by locust. It was in this year that the South African Defence Force commandos came to raid ANC refugee hideouts in Mogoditshane. Their Puma helicopters arrived some thirty minutes after first light. As they flew in a formation at a low altitude ove the village of Mogoditshane, women were ululating praising BDF for purchasing more firepower against the locusts. .Unfortunately some lives were going to be put to an abrupt end through this raid. BDF has in the past decades played a vital role in being the lead organisation in responding to disasters and particularly floods. There are two major incidents where BDF did a sterling job. That was in Palapye and as well as Operation Save Sowa. Helicopters proved to be very vital in the rescue of civilians during the Palapye floods. The airboats transported by the Israeli made M325 were doing ground work while the American made Bell 412 dominated the skies.

BDF is a key organization in the National Disaster Management Programme. Their voice is taken very seriously in this organisation. I wonder if insect invasion has been placed under such emergencies because of the threat it posses to our food security. Food security has never been at the top of our government’s agenda. But this threat is real and we might just have a taste of it this year. The armyworm invasion is more serious than the Ministry of Agriculture may perceive it.

Apparently it is very expensive for individual farmers to combat this invasion on their own. In South Africa, even the more resourced commercial farmers are struggling to achieve this exercise on their own. Taking this into account, it is obvious that the small commercial farmers in Botswana would even find it more demanding to do this exercise. BDF has several fixed wing aircraft that can be put into use in the quest to eliminate armyworms.  In modern warfare you have to dominate the skies in order to win the war. For BDF to participate effectively in the war against armyworms they have to employ their air assets. Because of the urgency of the invasion, BDF as a lead organization should by now be leading “Operation Speiti” which is aimed at spraying the corn fields with the aim of eradicating armyworm. In fact this would be a very ideal practice for their pilots because it’s a real life situation. In this operation, the lead aircraft would be the PC7 and PC9. These are very agile and can perform very well were turns and twists are required.


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