Tanzanian Members of Parliament meeting in the capital Dodoma for the marathon budget session on Sunday urged the government to set aside a special budget for fighting destructive fall armyworms.
The MPs observed that the armyworms had already wreaked havoc in the east African nation and caused panic to famers, sparking fears of a looming hunger crisis.
Speaking at a seminar jointly organized by the Ministry of Agriculture and the Tropical Pesticides Research Institute (TPRI), the MPs said in addition to setting aside the special budget, the government should declare the fall-armyworms invasion a national disaster.
Livingstone Lusinde, the MP for Mtera constituency, said the pace at which the armyworms were spreading around the country was worrying and there was need for the government to take it as a matter of urgency.
“This is a disaster. Our farmers cannot fight the pests singlehandedly. We need to come up with a special budget to fight the armyworms before the situation is out of control,” said the lawmaker.
According to Maneno Chidege, a pest and pesticides management specialist with the TPRI, fall armyworms have caused a loss amounting to 13.4 million U.S. dollars since they entered the African continent.
Another MP, Susan Kiwanga from Mlimba constituency, also appealed to the government to set the special budget on emergency basis.
In his response, the Minister for Agriculture, Charles Tizeba, said the government was taking various measures to contain the armyworms, including educating farmers on steps to be taken in controlling the pests and distribution of pesticides to affected areas.
In January, this year, the government of Tanzania said it had supplied pesticides to southern highlands to control the armyworms that were destroying crops at an alarming rate in some parts of the country.
“The government is aware of the invasion of the armyworms in southern highland regions and efforts to contain them are in place,” said Beatus Malema, the acting director for crop development in the Ministry of Agriculture.
The southern highlands regions of Rukwa, Mbeya, Njombe and Iringa are the country’s bread basket, producing most of the food for about 54 million people.
Malema said the armyworms came into the country through Rukwa region in February last year, and entered the African continent through Ghana in 2016 from the United States and Brazil.
Last year, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization entered into two agreements worth 2 million U.S. dollars with Tanzanian government to boost surveillance of fall armyworms. Enditem