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Locust outbreak leaves Zambezi farmers worried

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FARMERS in the Zambezi region, where an outbreak of red locusts was recently confirmed, have expressed concern for their crops.

This comes after the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry confirmed the presence of the migratory pests and videos of the insects in the region began circulating on social media. 

“The locusts are reported to have migrated from Botswana. Namibia is the second country in southern Africa to report the prevalence of the pests after Botswana,” the statement, issued last Friday by agriculture executive director Percy Misika revealed. 

According to the ministry, the locust invasion has affected farmers across the southern areas of the region.

A local farmer, Herbert Sibalatani, told The Namibian of his concern for his crop yields. 

Sibalitani said although he has not been affected, given that he resides in the floodplains, what he saw happening to other farmers’ crops was of concern. 

“As small-scale farmers we’re hoping to have a bumper harvest throughout the region since we have received good rains. However, this locust outbreak has left farmers, who have worked hard, devastated as they cannot do anything with what remains of their crops. 

“We sincerely hope the government does something to stop the spread of the locusts,” he said.

Another farmer, Bernard Mucheka, who also spoke to The Namibian yesterday,expressed hope that the government will intervene before the locust invasion hits his field as the outbreak is experienced in his area as well.

“I have planted seven hectares of maize and 3,45 hectares of sorghum and my field is promising. I appeal to the government to come to our aid and stop the spread of the locust outbreak. 

“We have really worked hard and we cannot just lose our crops this way. I feel sorry for the farmers who have lost their crops after putting in so much work. We are not blaming the government, we just need their help,’ he said. The ministry has said the migratory locust is one of the most widespread types of locust and occurs throughout the continent. 

Furthermore, conditions of drought followed by rapid vegetation growth stimulate breeding of the pests resulting in a change of behaviour to being nomadic as their populations grow. 

A spokesperson of the agricultural ministry, Jona Musheko, yesterday informed to The Namibian that the ministry has not yet received reports of locusts on the southern border. 

“Our technicians are on the lookout though. Farmers on the periphery of the breeding grounds and the border are informed to notify our offices of any suspicious cases,” he stated.

The South African department of agriculture, forestry and fisheries last week also reported an outbreak of brown locusts in the country’s north-western Karoo region, which is in close proximity to Namibia’s southern border. The department stated that this outbreak is not at all linked to the massive outbreak of the desert locust in East Africa which farmers fear may pose serious risks to their crops. Furthermore, Namibia’s agriculture ministry said it has intensified awareness campaigns to educate farmers on the presence of the pest and said control measures are being applied to contain the pest.

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