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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Zambia – Xenophobic Violence

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Spate of ritual killings leads to retaliatory attacks directed largely at foreign nationals in the region.

On April 7th a murder was reported in the capital Lusaka’s Matero constituency, the body showing signs of mutilation, with the heart and genital area removed. This incident marked the sixth case in a growing number of suspected ritual murders, reported Zambia Reports.

Over a week later, on April 18th, security services claimed they had arrested four people in connection with the attacks, with reports suggesting they may have been found with body parts. President Edgar Lungu commented that the motivations were surely something outside of the national Christian religion, reported Zambia Reports.

On the same day, in protest against the killings, locals looted shops in Zingalume, George and Matero townships; residents accused foreigners of being behind the six killings in the Zingalume area. Police spokesperson Charity Chanda confirmed that houses and shops belonging to foreigners had been destroyed and looted, reported the Times of Zambia.

In Chawama residents took to the streets in protest demanding that the government facilitate the deportation of foreigners in the area, particularly Rwandan nationals who are widely accused of involvement.

On April 19th the East African stated that as many as 200 people had been arrested in Lusaka during the protests. The most affected areas include George, Lilanda, Chunga and Zingalume in the west, and parts of Matero, Chaisa, Kabanana, Mandevu and Chipata in the north.

By April 20th as many as 62 shops had been looted and the figure of arrestees in connection to the violence had risen to 256.

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Lusaka

The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) Country Representative Ms Laura Lo Castro said, “we would like to urge Zambians to continue maintaining the unblemished high reputation, respected by the international community, of being hospitable to foreigners, including refugees,” reported the Herald.

Around 20 Rwandan nationals had approached the Rwandan High Commission in Lusaka for protection after the spate of xenophobic attacks, claimed Rwandan New Times.

The Rwanda High Commission’s interventions advised Rwandans in Lusaka that once threatened they should go to the nearest Police Station for safety but remain alert and avoid unnecessary movements; advising nationals to strictly abide and observe the national laws of the host country.

According to the Times of Zambia the recent levels of xenophobic violence are some of the worst since independence, with violence against Rwandans, Lebanese and Chinese residents on the rise. Analysts have also suggested that foreigners are usually engaged in business in Lusaka and have a higher financial status than many locals; the protests and riots were reportedly more common in the shanty towns than middle and higher class neighbourhoods.

According to the Minister of Disaster Preparedness and Refugee Affairs Seraphine Mukantabana, there are over 10,000 Rwandan refugees in Zambia, mainly those who fled the 1994 Genocide. The Rwandan government has been attempting to lure some of those refugees back, by demonstrating the progress the country has made.

However, a majority of Rwandans in Zambia remain there for “economic reasons” with over 6,500 Rwandans running businesses in the capital Lusaka, reported the East African. On April 24th 13 Rwandans were flown out of Zambia after loosing property and lifetime savings in the attacks.

Charge d’Affaires at the High Commission of Rwanda in Zambia, Abel Buhungu, said on April 24th that the situation had calmed slightly as security forces were deployed in restive suburbs.

Find out more in the African Research Bulletin:

Zambia – Politician Arrested
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol.53, Issue.3, Pp.20930B

ZAMBIA: Election Date
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol.53, Issue.1, Pp.20851A–20851C

SOUTH AFRICA: Xenophobic Violence
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol.52, Issue.4, Pp.20524C–20526A

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East Africa: Investments in Rail Infrastructure

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Members of the East African Community pledge to use Central and Northern Transport Corridors to unlock the region’s economic potential

East African Community (EAC) member states, Tanzania, Kenya, Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda are hoping to implement joint infrastructure projects to further boost regional trade and growth. Tanzanian President and Chairman of the EAC, Jakaya Kikwete is quoted by Tanzania Daily News as saying “it is my wish to see the Northern and Central Corridors infrastructure to be one in the future”.

Following a Northern & Central Corridor Investors Forum in Dar es Salaam on March 25th, EAC members launched the construction of the US$14.2 billion East African Central Corridor Railway. According to Transport Minister Samuel Sitta the project will be “the single biggest project ever to be implemented by the Tanzanian government since our countries independence”, report Reuters.

The project will involve constructing 2561km of standard gauge railway to connect Dar es Salaam to landlocked neighbours of Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda, Zambia and eastern DR Congo,  costing around $7.6bn, while two other additional lines will be constructed to serve mining regions in the southern and northern Tanzania, at a cost of around $6.6bn. The main line will contain spur lines that will connect to Kigali, Rwanda, Bjumbura in Burundi, and Masaka, Uganda, explain Tanzania News Daily.

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Landlocked countries in Africa are reliant on rail and road links through to main coastal economic and commercial hubs; in East Africa particularly Dar es Salaam in Tanzania and Mombasa in Kenya. In direct competition to the Tanzanian railway plans, Kenya is also constructing a standard gauge railway, funded by China Road and Bridge Corporation, from Mombasa-Nairobi to Kampala.

The Kenyan government has claimed the new railway from Mombasa to the Great Lakes region will boost economic growth by 1.5% per year, report Ventures Africa, eventually extending to replace the ageing colonial-era narrow gauge railway that reaches towards DR-Congo. The initial 609 km section from Mombasa to Nairobi has been started with a finish date set for 2017.

China has agreed to finance part of a $3.2 billion Uganda rail plan, report East Africa Business Week; construction of the Eastern and Northern Standard Gauge Railway that will connect Kampala, Malaba on the Kenyan border and Nimule in South Sudan, while joining the wider standard gauge network, giving fruitful economic benefits from links to Kenya’s coastal commercial hub.

AFKInsider comment that Kenya and Tanzania are vying to be the preferred regional transport hub and with recent oil and gas discoveries in the region, the area has become a hive of exploration. Transport minister Sitta said “We are in competition at all times with the Mombasa port…its a competitive business so we need to be efficient”.

Both countries are also planning to invest in new port projects at Bagamoyo in Tanzania and Lamu in Kenya, report Tanzania Daily News. The Lamu Port-South Sudan-Ethiopia Transport (LAPSSET) project was first proposed in the 1970s to provide Sudan and Ethiopia access to the Indian ocean. In 2013 China Communications Construction Co Ltd won the US$445 million contract for the first three berths of the port and according to the Kenyan government the LAPSSET project is nearing advanced stages. The project includes an economic corridor comprised of road networks, oil pipelines, three airports and a standard gauge railway network from Lamu to Juba, South Sudan and Addis-Ababa, Ethiopia (shown on map below).

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The majority of financing for large infrastructure projects across East Africa, and large parts of the African continent as a whole, is stemming from China, who have recently signed agreements with the African Union (AU) for a network of high-speed rail links in the next few decades.

Chinese companies and banks are financing a variety of railway projects across the region  including the Addis-Ababa Light Rail Transit System in Ethiopia. In 2014 China Railway 20 Bureau Group Corporation completed the reconstruction of the Benguela railway connecting Angola, Zambia and south-eastern DR Congo, and China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC) is constructing the $4 billion, 740-km electric railway that connects Addis Ababa and Djibouti.

Open database, Aid Data, provide a useful visual mapping of Chinese-financed projects in Africa, available here.

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin

Roads & Railways: Kenya
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol.52, Issue.1, Pp. 20715B-20716A

Ports & Shipping: Tanzania
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol.51, Issue.10, Pp. 20607A-20608A

Roads & Railways: Uganda
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol.51, Issue.8, Pp.20536B-20537C

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