East Africa – Pest Outbreak Threatens Crops

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There are serious concerns over the new armyworm outbreak, which has already ruined large areas of cultivation.

On February 14th international leaders held talks in Harare, Zimbabwe, to tackle the armyworm outbreak, which has spread across several African countries, including Zambia, Zimbabwe, South Africa and Ghana.

There have been more recent reports suggesting that Malawi, Mozambique and Namibia may also be seeing outbreaks. The species of ‘fall armyworm’ originates from the Americas and United Nations (UN) FAO coordinator for South Africa, David Phiri, said, “farmers do not know really how to treat it.”

The caterpillars eat maize, wheat, millet and rice, key food sources in southern and eastern Africa. The Centre for Agriculture and Bioscience International (CABI) recently said that it is spreading rapidly and needs an urgent response.

The armyworm name is misleading as the pest is actually a caterpillar, and should not be confused with the African armyworm, which is known in the region. This species originates from the Americas, although no-one is sure how it made it to Africa. It is thought that it could have arrived on a commercial flight or in imported food.

According to the United Nations (UN) Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), it has taken only eight weeks for the pest to spread to six southern African countries. The caterpillar stage does the damage but “it’s the adult moth that migrates long distances and that’s how it’s managed to get round Africa,” said Professor Ken Wilson, an armyworm expert.

“These army worms attack the maize leaves, the flower and even bore into the stalk. And because they dig into the stem of the plant, it is difficult to notice them. It is only on close inspection that you realise almost the entire plant has been destroyed” said Chimenya Phiri, Malawian farmer, reported BBC News on February 14th.


Armyworm – www.phys.org

South Africa’s agriculture ministry said little was known about how the armyworms arrived or what their long-term effects would be; “It may become a migratory pest similarly to the African armyworm and may migrate in large numbers from one area to another, causing great damage,” reported UK-based the Guardian.

“If it is a small level of the worms, it’s easy to control, using pesticides. Otherwise, it’s very difficult to control it, so they will have to use different methods – including sometimes burning the crops,” said Phiri.

Zimbabwe’s Deputy Agriculture Minister Davis Marapira said that the pest had been detected in all of the country’s 10 provinces.

The FAO, which is hosting the Harare meeting, said armyworm outbreaks combined with current locust problems “could be catastrophic” as southern Africa has yet to recover from droughts caused by the El Nino climate phenomenon.

Zambia reported that almost 90,000 hectares of maize have been affected. In Malawi, some 17,000 hectares have so far been affected. In Namibia approximately 50,000 hectares of maize and millet has been damaged, and in Zimbabwe up to 130,000 hectares could be affected.

The FAO said it had initiated the process of procuring pheromone insect lure traps, which are used for capturing armyworm and monitoring their spread.

(© AFP 14/2 2017; PANA, Lusaka 16/2)

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin:

RWANDA: Food Security Fears
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol. 54, Issue. 1, Pp. 21568A–21568C

Drought and Hunger
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol. 54, Issue. 1, Pp. 21563A–21563C

Africa’s Pulse – Agriculture Could Be The Key
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 9, Pp. 21424A–21424B.

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Mozambique – Debt Troubles Continue

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The IMF commends recent efforts but states that financial support will not resume until debt levels are made sustainable.

The Deputy Director of the Africa Department of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), David Owen, said on November 14th that Mozambique had taken promising steps to deal with hidden debts that have impacted heavily on the economy.

The debts relate to loans of over US$1.1bn from Credit Suisse and Russian bank VTB to quasi-public firms Proindicus, Mozambique Asset Management (MAM) and the Mozambique Tuna Company (Ematum), under then President Armando Guebuza in 2013/14.

The IMF, during a mission visit from September 22-29th, praised the “significant tightening of macro-economic policy,” and the raise in interest rates announced by the Bank of Mozambique in October, which had led to the stabilisation of the exchange rate, reported AIM.

However the head of the mission Michel Lazare said that resumption of financial support was still a long way off.  “The authorities have requested the Fund to resume discussions on financial support as soon as possible. A solid track record of implementation of sound macroeconomic policies and an effective initiation of the audit process in the near term would help to create the conditions for a possible resumption of program discussions with the IMF,” Lazare said.

Lazare continued by stating that Mozambique “is facing a challenging economic environment”, with economic growth now in decline. The forecast growth for this year is 3.7% in 2016, down from 6.6% in 2015, which is “is significantly below levels observed in recent years.”

“At the same time, a significant decline in imports has been more than offset by a weakening of exports, foreign direct investment, and donor financing…This has maintained pressure on international reserves, which have continued to decline,” Lazare added, reported AIM.

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Ex-President Armando Guebuza – CC 2012

However more than half of the secret loans related to Ematum and maritime security have never been explained. According to Africa Confidential, around $900m was passed on to companies owned by the ruling Frelimo elite for the purchase of assault rifles, armoured cars and other weapons from Israel, for use in the war against Renamo, reported UK-based Mozambique News Reports.

There have also been accusations that Frelimo officials have wasted huge sums on setting up a shipbuilding industry, for which little work had been completed. Though many of the weapons seem to have been bought by companies owned by private individuals, these companies are linked to the three implicated in the debt scandal. Many of the funds were placed in offshore bank accounts to act as collateral for Frelimo-owned companies.

Two banks involved in the deals, Crédit Suisse and Russia’s VTB Group are under investigation by authorities in the UK and Switzerland.

The two main political parties remain at loggerheads as the country continues to be in crisis. Frelimo, which has held power since independence from Portugal in 1975, is fighting to maintain its grip on the country. In the wake of the scandal economic and political unrest troubles have only worsened, reported Africa Confidential.

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin:

Mozambique – Price Falls Lead To Closures
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol.53, Issue. 8, Pp. 21404A

MOZAMBIQUE: Liquidity Problems
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol.53, Issue. 5, Pp. 21289A–21290C

MOZAMBIQUE: Economic Update
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol.53, Issue. 4, Pp. 21231A–21233C

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Mozambique – Political Violence Resumes

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Concerns over increased violence as rebel leader announces a bid to take over six provinces.

According to reports on January 14th many hundreds of refugees are fleeing across the Malawian border, describing how Mozambican government forces are driving people from their homes in the search for supporters of the Renamo armed opposition and their leader Afonso Dhlakama.

Dhlakama recently on December 16th stated his claim to claim six provinces in the  central and northern parts of the country, reigniting fears of a restart in the violence which ended 24 years ago. He claimed to have backing of public support and said he would retaliate if the government opposed him, reported News24. 

“The soldiers came in government vehicles to burn houses and maize barns and accused us of sheltering Renamo soldiers,” farmer Omali Ibrahim said as he was arriving at the Kapise refugee camp in Malawi’s southern district of Mwanza. The camp now houses over 1,500 people compared with 300 in June last year.

Dhlakama was the leader of Renamo during a 16-year civil war which ended in 1992, and he has refused to accept the results of a 2014 election, in which he was beaten by President Filipe Nyusi of the Frelimo party.

According to reports violence in the villages of Zobue and Moatize in Tete province is driving refugees across the border into Malawi. Senior Official in the Malawian Ministry of Home Affairs, Bestone Chisamile, said that the influx is a “big problem”. Medecin Sans Frontieres (MSF) and the United Nations Childrens Fund (UNICEF) are providing support at the Kapise camp.

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President Nyusi – CC 2014.

Earlier in December Renamo had called for international mediation between itself and the Mozambican government. Renamo spokesperson Antonio Muchanga said that new proposed mediators – South African President Jacob Zuma and figures from the Roman Catholic Church – are to be in place of the previous Mozambican mediators.

According to reports, the specific details of the Catholic Church officials were not detailed, but it was suggested that they responded promptly to the request by Renamo, and there were also signs that Zuma had accepted the invitation, reported Mozambican state owned media AIM.

Muchanga blamed the Mozambican mediators for failure of past dialogue, which began in April 2013. although it was Dhlakama who was to cease dialogue in August 2015. President Nyusi has stated that he wants face to face talks and is not interested in mediators.

Renamo has refused to disarm on disband its armed militia, as was stipulated in an agreement on the cessation of hostilities, signed on September 5th 2014.

Muchanga also denied that Renamo gunmen are defecting to the government; reports have suggested a steady trickle of former Renamo fighters asking to join the army or police, or seeking military pensions promised by the government, reported AIM.

According to Malawian media Nyasa Times, Mozambique is to blame for a rise in the influx of guns in Malawi, and there are concerns that violence, particularly in Tete province, could spill over the border.

Other reports from Mozambican state-owned AIM claimed that Renamo are responsible for the abduction of Frelimo officials in six districts of Sofala province. The districts cited were Gorongosa, Maríngue, Cheringoma, Chemba, Muanza, Nhamatanda and Chibabava.

Reports, which could not be independently confirmed, claimed that on on December 11th Renamo kidnapped the First Sectretary of a Frelimo committee in Muanza, whose whereabouts are still unknown. On January 5th Renamo kidnapped a Frelimo First secretary in Bededo locality of Nhamatanda. Other reports suggested that ten schools in Tete province, near the Malawian border, remain closed since they were shut down by Renamo rebels in June 2015.

Africa Confidential recently commented that President Nyusi is likely to face one of his most difficult years yet, with the country at a crossroads between stability and prosperity, and conflict and economic crisis.

Mozambique relies heavily on foreign aid, for around a quarter of its US$4.92 billion budget, alongside International Monetary Fund (IMF) emergency finance, which is conditional on unpopular austerity measures. There are also concerns that Nyusi may be facing opposition from within his Frelimo party.

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin today

Mozambique: Shootouts & Blockades
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol.52, No.10, Pp.20756A–20756B

Mozambique: Renamo Drags its Heels
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol.52, No.4, Pp. 20543B

Mozambique: Calm After the Storm
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol.52, No.2, Pp. 20458C–20459A

Mozambique: Frelimo Government
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol.52, No.1, Pp. 20419B–20420B

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