FRANCISTOWN: Farmers in the northern part of Botswana are suffering a massive blow following fall armyworm attack, COVID-19 and heavy rainfall which threaten their agricultural production.
The outbreak of fall army worm in the region, Covid-19 and heavy rainfall have shattered the farmers’ hopes of good yields and will leave most of them empty handed in terms of good harvest and income generation.
In February,2021 the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security extended the ploughing season for the northern region from February 16 until 28.The extension was due to the continuous rains experienced in the country.
In an interview with the chairperson of Tonota, Tutume, Masunga (TOTUMA) arable and commercial farmers association Jan Erasmus said most farmers in their association have reported attacks by fall armyworm in the fields.
He also said so far about eight farmers in Tonota cluster have raised a concern over the same worm which targeted their maize and sweet reeds.
He added that aphids worm have caused some serious damage by destroying beans for about five farmers in the same cluster.
The TOTUMA arable and commercial farmers’ association chairperson also said the moderate rains which were encountered by the region also helped against the fall armyworm and aphids worms.
He stated that they also managed to spray some insecticides when the larvae was young in order to manage the armyworms
Erasmus further said that due to heavy rainfall encountered by the region earlier this year most of the farmers did not plough because the soil was waterlogged. He further said that due to the Covid-19 restrictions they were not able to host meetings in order to take reports on other cluster progress during this ploughing season.
Erasmus stated that unlike in the past they did not organise any field day visits so as to abide by the Covid-19 health
He said due to the restrictions of COVID-19 most of the farmers were faced with shortage of labourers due to travel restrictions
He also shared that still due to COVID-19 they have lost one of their members and also the chairperson for Masunga cluster Rex Mukokomani who will be laid to rest on Saturday.
Erasmus said that Mukokomani was one of their biggest farmers in the region.
Therefore, he advised all the farmers to be cautious and protect themselves and farm workers as it is an absolute necessity for their safety as they are essential for agricultural produce.
TOTUMA arable and commercial farmer’s association secretary and also a farmer at Mosojane village Reuben Buzwani said that they were facing a lot of obstacles during this ploughing season. He said some farmers in the association have reported cases of fall armyworm.
He said that in their area fewer farmers attempted to plough but already they are regretting their decision because they are not getting any results.
Meanwhile Masunga cluster vice chairperson Egger Phineas said that lots of people did not plough due to heavy rainfalls.
He said that unfortunately he could not provide further information because he is still yet to receive data after the passing of their chairperson Mukokomani. He said that normalyl he will be updated of a lot of challenges faced by farmers but they were now restricted by COVIID-19.
Phineas said due to COVID-19 restriction they were not allowed to have any gatherings.
He said that he was amongst those that did not partake in the 2020/2021 ploughing season but he had heard a few farmers complain about fall armyworm attacks in their fields.