By Lameck Kwalimba, MANA
Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development has assured farmers not to panic with the locusts that have hit neighbouring Tanzania.
The assurance comes following fears that farmers across Malawi fear that the locusts may migrate into Malawi since the locusts have wreaked havoc in the Horn of Africa.
Reports say the locusts have been moving in a southerly and easterly direction, from Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya where they were first spotted.
Speaking in Lilongwe on Tuesday, the Ministry’s spokesperson, Priscilla Mateyu said the locusts that are attacking the East African Region are desert locusts while the ones which swarm Malawi are red locusts.
“We have never had a desert locust attack in Malawi and there are no breeding grounds for it,” she said.
According to an article published by the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), favourable conditions for this type of locusts to breed are moist sandy or clay soils, some bare areas for egg-laying and green vegetation for hopper development.
Mateyu further said chances are minimal that the locusts can migrate to Malawi.
“We are monitoring the situation. In case of an attack, we are ready to respond accordingly,” she said.
The locusts are said to migrate with the wind and to cover up to 12.5km in an hour and a single swarm can contain up to 150 million locusts per square kilometer of farm land.
FAO’s senior locust forecasting officer, Keith Cressman, said: “They are a victim of the wind direction. The wind from October to February has been blowing from north to south over the Horn of Africa.”
The locusts are believed to have been caused by a change in the weather patterns experienced in eastern Africa in recent months.
“A cyclone that swept through north eastern Somalia and eastern Ethiopia in December, bringing heavy rains to the area, created ideal conditions for the insects to breed for the next six months,” Cressman said.
According to FAO, desert locusts lay eggs in moist sandy soils which hatch in two weeks to produce locust nymphs that grow wings in a month and half or two before becoming adults and forming swarms.