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Farmers in Zimbabwe brace for return of destructive new pests

Staff Writer | December 28, 2017
Farmers in Zimbabwe are watching their crops, fearing the return of a plethora of new pests that recently spread and devastated harvests this year.
Farmers in Zimbabwe
Africa   Many cannot afford pesticide
Many cannot afford pesticide - or lack the knowledge - to control fall armyworm, tomato leafminer, cotton mealybug and other newcomer pests that arrived as climate change creates warmer, more conducive conditions, Reuters reported.

Shifting weather patterns linked to climate change - including longer droughts and more intense rainfall - are making farming more uncertain across much of southern Africa.

And the arrival of new pests - some of them adapted to the changing conditions - is making life even harder for the region’s embattled farmers.

Fall armyworm destroyed 20 percent of the country’s maize crop last season, according to government figures, at a time when the country was recovering from devastating drought that had left more than 4 million people dependent on food aid.

The pest is a native of the Americas and was first spotted in Africa in 2016. It has since spread across the continent.

Fall armyworm was first seen in Zimbabwe in September 2016, and became more prevalent in January and February when it was spotted across the country, according to a joint report by the government and U.N. agencies.

Many countries in Africa have reported other new crop pests and diseases including banana bunchy top virus in Mozambique, South Africa and Malawi, and maize lethal necrosis in Kenya, Tanzania and Rwanda, and elsewhere.

Globally, the spread of pests and diseases across borders has increased dramatically in recent years with trade playing a role as well as climate change, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization.