Thursday, 23rd February, 2017

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Thursday, 23ndFebruary, 2017

 

The House met at 1430 hours

 

[MR SPEAKER in the Chair]

 

NATIONAL ANTHEM

 

PRAYER

 

_______

 

MINISTERIAL STATEMENT

 

FALL ARMY WORMS/STALK BORER AND RED LOCUSTS

 

The Minister of Agriculture (Ms Siliya): Mr Speaker, I thank you for giving me the opportunity to deliver a ministerial statement on the crop pests that have been a menace to our food security, namely the fall army worm, stalk borer and red locust.

 

Mr Speaker, in the 2016/2017 Agriculture Season, the country experienced an outbreak of fall army worms which attacked the maize crop in some parts of the country. The fall army worm is native to the tropical and sub-tropical areas of the Americas. Several West African countries, namely São Tomé and Principe, Nigeria and Ghana were the first to report the presence of the fall army worm in early 2016.

 

Sir, the outbreak of the fall army worm in the country was first reported in the second week of December, 2016, on the Copperbelt Province, followed by Eastern, Luapula, Lusaka and Central provinces. As at 16th February, 2017, a total of 234,147 farmers, covering an area of 191,930 ha across the country, had been affected by the outbreak of fall army worms.

 

Mr Speaker, in response to this outbreak, the Government procured 101,804 litres of various pesticides, valued at K18 million, which were distributed to the affected farmers. The pesticides included cypermethrin, malathion, karate and chrolopyrofos. The Government provided an additional K3 million for the purchase of work suits, gumboots, sprayers, respirators and operational funds for all the ten provinces.

 

Mr Speaker, the Ministry of Agriculture worked in collaboration with the Disaster Management and Mitigation Unit (DMMU), district and province administrations, Zambia National Service (ZNS), the Zambia Air Force (ZAF) and the Zambia Correctional Services (ZCS) in the fight against the fall army worms. This is a demonstration of effective co-ordination among the various Government agencies and institutions, as pronounced by His Excellency the President, Mr Edgar Chagwa Lungu, on the need for a one-Government approach to national issues.

 

Mr Speaker, I wish to report that the fall army worm has been contained, but not completely eradicated. Therefore, the surveillance programmes will continue up to harvest time. Farmers are urged to continue scouting their fields for the pest and spraying until after harvest time, as the worm may also attack maize cobs.

 

Mr Speaker, the International Red Locust Control Organisation for Eastern and Southern Africa (IRLCO) is currently undertaking surveys on the red locust and the African migratory locust in the Kafue Flats, Simahala Plains and Lukanga Swamps.

 

Sir, the survey has revealed that a total of 82,000 ha have been affected by the red locusts. Of this land mass, 3,000 ha has a population density of fifty locusts per square metre while 79,000 ha has between one to five locusts per square metre. To date, only 2,000 ha of farmers’ fields, especially maize, have been affected by the African migratory locust. The affected areas include two villages in Namwala and five areas in Itezhi-tezhi, including the riverine areas.

 

Sir, on 11th February, 2017, the IRLCO began ground spraying operations for the locusts. The organisation is also undertaking aerial spraying using a helicopter. However, I wish to mention that there are environmental concerns with this kind of approach. Our mitigation steps include avoiding spraying sensitive areas that form part of the ecosystem and using internationally-accepted pesticides.

 

Mr Speaker, the Government has released K4.7 million, out of the required K10 million, for the whole operation. The IRLCO is expected to complete the spraying exercise by April, 2017.

 

Sir, I also wish to point out that the IRLCO is working closely with my ministry and the DMMU in the control of the locusts. However, this exercise has been hampered by several challenges which include:

  1. intermittent rain, which has affected aerial surveys and spraying; and

 

  1. a flooded road network which hinders ground spraying.

 

Mr Speaker, I wish to inform the House that for the 2017/2018 agricultural season and thereafter, the Government will strengthen early warning and surveillance systems to enhance preparedness against pests such as the army worm, red locust and African migratory locust. I would also like to urge farmers to invest in pest control as part of their farming practices. This will lessen dependence on the Government in times of pest outbreak.

 

Sir, despite these challenges, the country anticipates a good harvest this year, owing to the continued good rains and overwhelming response from the hardworking farmers who have embraced agriculture as a business and not a way of life.

 

Mr Speaker, I thank you.

 

Mr Speaker: Hon. Members are now free to ask questions on points of clarification on the statement given by the hon. Minister.

Mr Jamba (Mwembezhi): Mr Speaker, during the last meeting of Parliament, I raised the issue of army worms and I was told to file in a question regarding the same.

 

Mr Speaker, I am told it will be difficult for us to eradicate the army worms. We have to continue spraying our maize fields like we do for cotton. What measures is the Government going to put in place to ensure that the problem does not recur in the next farming season?

 

Ms Siliya: Mr Speaker, the Ministry of Agriculture does not operate on hearsay. It has an efficient department of research at the Zambia Agriculture Research Institute (ZARI) and is currently conducting research on the habits of the fall army worm and the pesticide that can be used to effectively exterminate it.

 

Sir, reports from the University of California, which was contracted to determine what kind of army worm we had, revealed that the fall army worm is native to the Americas. It was seen for the first time in Zambia. In fact, most farmers mistook it for the common stalk borer.

 

Mr Speaker, in future, we have to strengthen the early warning system. We shall continue to lay traps at community, camp, block, district, province and national levels so that if any worms or whatever pest are captured, they are quickly identified and a response to exterminate them is begun before their population can increase. The crop can only be protected through the strengthening of surveillance and early warning systems.

 

Mr Speaker, I thank you.

 

Mrs Mwansa (Nyimba): Mr Speaker, in Nyimba Constituency, the stalk borer is now attacking cobs of maize. What measures are being put in place to ensure that there is no more damage to the crop?

 

Ms Siliya: Mr Speaker, before I respond to that question, I wish to say that the plains that I referred to earlier on in my statement are called Simalaha and not Simalala.

 

Sir, as regards the question by the hon. Member for Nyimba, I stated that farmers have to continue to scout the fields for the fall army worm. We know that sometimes it buries itself in the cob. This can result in post harvest losses. The message to all the farmers and extension officers is to continue to scout for the presence of the fall army worm. Clearly, we need to strengthen our early warning systems so that we spray the crop way before it reaches maturity. However, since the maize is now forming cobs, the important thing to do is continue scouting for worms so as to ensure that we do not incur post harvest losses.

 

Mr Speaker, I thank you.

 

Mr Kufakwandi (Sesheke): Mr Speaker, it would appear that there is no sufficient scientific knowledge on the control of the fall army worms. We have information on how the army worm entered the country. It appears we do not have sufficient information on its life cycle either. Do we have sufficient scientific knowledge on the control of the pest?

Ms Siliya: Mr Speaker, the experts have told us that this is the first time that we are experiencing the problem of the fall army worm which is native to the Americas. We have had attacks in the past from the common army worm. We are used to the stalk borer. This is the reason most farmers and extension officers mistook it for the common stalk borer.

 

Sir, as soon as we realised that its habits were different from those of the common pest, we called in researchers from as far as the University of California and the Agriculture Centre for Biological Sciences in the United Kingdom (UK) to determine the strain of the pest. They determined that it was the fall army worm which attacked West Africa and parts of Central East Africa last year. We have heard reports of its presence in South Africa.

 

Clearly, now we know what it is. Our research institute is working with other international bodies to determine exactly the issues that the hon. Member of Parliament has raised. In fact, they are carrying out field and laboratory tests at the moment on the most effective pesticides that can be used to eradicate the pest. The private sector has produced a pesticide whose efficacy our research centre is trying to determine so that we have effective pesticides to fight the fall army worm in future.

 

Mr Speaker, I thank you.

 

Interruptions

 

Mr Speaker: The conversations on the right are rather loud. Please, support your colleague.

 

Dr Chanda (Bwana Mkubwa): Mr Speaker, I am concerned about the outbreak of army worms. I see a parallel between the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and the army worm. Since we have a Department of Entomology in the country, we expect the scientists to tell us how an army worm, which is native to the Americas, got into Zambia. What is the vector? Did it come through butterflies, seed or fertiliser? If we do not determine the source, we will not be able eradicate it. The issue has raised some conspiracy theories. Can the hon. Minister clarify the vector? How did the army worm get here?

 

Ms Siliya: Mr Speaker, I apologise to the hon. Member of Parliament for Sesheke because I think that he asked a similar question. Our researchers and the universities are applying their minds to determine the pathway through which the pest came into the country. Various theories have been put forward, including that it could have been through contaminated fertiliser or seed. However, some people have argued how it could have been through contaminated seed when Zambia does not import but export seed. So, at the moment, researchers are working tirelessly to inform policy makers so that they make informed decisions. At the moment, we have not yet been able to determine how it actually came into the country and are awaiting this information.

 

Mr Speaker, I thank you.

 

Mr Lufuma (Kabompo): Mr Speaker, ...

 

Mr Ngulube: Ema moustache, aya!

Mr Lufuma: This guy likes my moustache. I do not know why.

 

Laughter

 

Mr Lufuma: Mr Speaker, the hon. Minister of Agriculture has mentioned that following the attack by the army worm, expert knowledge was sought from the University of California in the United States of America on how it came into the country and how it manifests and destroys crop. I am just wondering why, after fifty-three years of Independence, experts at the University of Zambia, including Dr Wachinga who from the Department of Entomology, could be so incompetent as not to assist the hon. Minister of Agriculture to determine the type of worm that has attacked the maize crop in this country.

 

Ms Siliya: Mr Speaker, I think that our colleagues in the science world have done a great job of supporting agriculture over the years. Clearly, we are familiar with certain pests that are native to our environment. When the fall army worm was first noticed, it was mistaken for the army worm that had attacked Zambia a few years back or the stock borer. In the scientific world, people collaborate. It is this collaboration that resulted in the identification of pest as the fall army worm. The local scientists collaborated with their colleagues at the University of California because the fall army worm is native to that part of the world so that they could truly identify the worm.

 

Mr Speaker, the second question was: If it is native to the Americas, how did it end up in Zambia? Again, scientists had to carry out some research. There are various assertions on how the fall army worm ended up in Zambia. Like I said earlier, we all assumed that it was through seed or contaminated fertiliser, while some people said that it came in through imported foodstuffs. All these assertions have to be verified because we do not want to work on assumptions. That is what the researchers are doing at the moment. Since we have known that the fall army worm can reach this far, what are the best pesticides to use? In the past, we have used pesticides for stock borer and the common army worm because the worm always attacks from the outside of the plant. So, it was easy to eradicate by spraying the pesticide. The fall army worm attack the plant from inside the funnel of the plant. So, what kind of pesticide should be used? This is part of the research that is going on at the moment. I am sure those of you who are scientists know that you do not get scientific answers overnight. Once the University of Zambia (UNZA) and Zambia Agriculture Research Institute (ZARI) conclude their research, their findings will be released so that evidence-based decisions can be made.

 

I thank you, Mr Speaker.

 

Mr Hamusonde (Nangoma): Mr Speaker, may I find out which rural constituencies where attacked by army worms? We also heard that some areas were given pesticides at no cost. Which areas are these?

 

Ms Siliya: Mr Speaker, there were reports of the presence of fall the fall army worm in almost all the parts of the country. However, the extent of the attacks varied. As for the Government’s response through the Ministry of Agriculture and the Disaster Management and Mitigation Unit (DMMU), all the procured pesticides were distributed at no cost. Of course, farmers who could afford to buy the pesticide from agro dealers were at liberty to do so. The Zambia National Service (ZNS) and other response teams carried out communal spraying because we thought that that was the best way to exterminate the army worm instead of having individual farmers spraying their fields. To avoid the army worm migrating to other fields in the same area, it was considered important that an approach of having the ZNS communally spray the fields be adopted. So, all the pesticides that the Government distributed were at no cost.

 

I thank you, Mr Speaker.

 

Mrs Mulyata (Rufunsa): Mr Speaker, I wish to find out how the distribution of the pesticides was done. In Rufunsa, most of the farmers did not access the pesticides. As a result, they resorted to using a detergent paste called boom which seemed to be effective.

 

Hon. Opposition Members: Hear, hear!

 

Laughter

 

Mrs Mulyata: Hon. Minister, would you say boom detergent paste is the next pesticide that we should be looking at to fight army worms?

 

Hon. Opposition Members: Hear, hear!

 

Ms Siliya: Mr Speaker, we do know that people use both traditional remedies learnt and conventional remedies of pesticides to protect their crop from pests. Research has shown that boom detergent paste was not effective despite it being quite popular. Most farmers used a certain type of washing powder that is imported from Tanzania. However, when its efficacy in fighting the fall army worm was tested, it proved to be ineffective. Many farmers started using boom detergent paste and other washing powders before the Government’s intervention. Once the Government intervened, farmers were happy that the pesticides the Government had recommended were more effective in exterminating the worms. In the future, God forbid, we do not expect farmers to resort to using washing powder. We urge farmers to consider pest fighting as part and parcel of farming practice and communities to be on the lookout for early warning signs of pests so that they are exterminated before they spread.

 

I thank you, Mr Speaker.

 

Mr Phiri (Mkaika): Mr Speaker, I am one of the victims of the army worm attack, as my maize field was attacked by the destructive worms.

 

Dr Kambwili: Taulima iwe. Ulebepa ubufi.

 

Laughter

 

Mr Phiri: When I reported the attack to the district authorities, I was told that …

 

Mr Mweetwa: On point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr Speaker: A point of order is raised

 

Mr Mweetwa: Mr Speaker, thank you for allowing me to raise a point of order. You know I rarely do so …

 

Hon. PF Members: Ah!

 

Mr Mweetwa: … unless it is extremely important matter of national consequence. I would like to apologise to my elder brother who was on the Floor for disrupting his line of thought.

 

Sir, in the recent past, the Zambian people have been subjected to various and numerous media reports in respect to what the media has dubbed the “Maize Gate Scandal”. To that effect, a joint Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture and Irrigation and Public Accounts was set up in Malawi to investigate what is referred to in this report (waving a document) as a questionable transaction of maize purchase between Zambia and Malawi, involving the Ministry of Agriculture of Zambia and that of Malawi.

 

Mr Mutelo: Hear, hear!

 

Mr Mweetwa: Sir, on me is a report from Malawi, which the joint committee came up with and the various recommendations that it made, which I will lay on the Table of the House. Of the various news items, the one which has triggered my raising this point of order is today’s Daily Nation headlined:

 

“Mutharika Fires Chaponda Over Maize Gate”.

 

The joint report of the committee of the Parliament of Malawi has cited irregularities involving the Ministry of Agriculture in Zambia. This is embarrassing. Whereas, the Malawian authorities have taken action, the Government of Zambia and its administration has conveniently elected to remain silent, leaving the media and citizens to speculate. Whether it was questionable and dubious on the part of the media as it is calling it, or the Zambians, there was no travesty.

 

Sir it is in line with this that I would like to find out whether the Leader of Government Business in the House is in order to remain quiet and not address this House and the nation to clear this matter, especially that the hon. Minister of Agriculture cannot be requested to respond given that the report has mentioned her ministry.

 

I seek your serious ruling, Sir.

 

Mr Mweetwa laid the paper on the Table.

 

Hon. Opposition Members: Hear, hear!

 

Hon. Government Members: Question!

 

Hon. UPND Members: Hear, hear!

Hon. Government Members: Question!

 

Mr Speaker: It is clear that your point of order is premised on press reports and the report that you have laid on the Table of the House. In order to have a focused response to your enquiry, I direct that you formulate some questions which I will forward to the Executive to respond.

 

That is my ruling.

 

Hon. Government Members: Hear, hear!

 

Mr Ngulube: Ema Speaker, aya!

 

Mr Phiri: Mr Speaker, before I was interrupted by that point of order, I was saying that my field was also attacked by the army worms. Each farmer was given one bottle of pesticide, which was not enough. So, I had to buy more pesticides to cover the whole field. I am worried because the hon. Minister mentioned that the army worms might also attack the maize cob. Is the Government adequately equipped to fight the army worm?

 

Ms Siliya: Mr Speaker, I said that we have almost managed to contain the army worm. However, there could still be sporadic attacks in some parts of the country. According to desk research, the pest sometimes buries itself inside the cob. We are not able to determine that until after the harvest. Given the extent of the extermination that took place, I believe we have been able to contain the spread. However, this does not take away the possibility of the army worm having made its way into the cob of the maize. We shall only know after the harvest and that is when we shall determine the extent of the loss.

 

Sir, as regards the distribution of pesticides, the outbreak was unanticipated. So, the Government reacted promptly by diverting some budgetary allocations for other programmes to the eradication of army worms. Over K20 to K30 million was spent on this programme. Obviously, it was not possible for every farmer to get all the pesticides that he/she needed. Some farmers wanted more pesticides despite their having small fields. The pesticides have to be diluted before spraying. Some farmers managed to purchase the pesticides.

 

I thank you, Sir.

 

Mr Michelo (Bweengwa): Mr Speaker, in her statement, the hon. Minister of Agriculture mentioned that more than 100,000 ha of land in Zambia was attacked by the army worms. What was the extent of the damage and which provinces were most affected?

 

Ms Siliya: Mr Speaker, whereas under 200,000 ha of land was affected, only 191,930 ha of crop and 234,147 farmers were affected. There have been no reports suggesting that the affected farmers have experienced any loss due to the outbreak. The provinces that were least affected were Northern and Muchinga. The most affected provinces include the Copperbelt, Central and parts of Lusaka. However, the important thing to note is that even though it was the first time we experienced the outbreak of the fall army worm, the reaction of the Government, farmers and the media was effective. That is why I said that it has now been contained and we await the harvest to see how much loss we will have incurred.

 

I thank you, Mr Speaker.

 

Dr Kambwili (Roan): Mr Speaker, it was reported that some pesticides went missing at the provincial administration office on the Copperbelt. What action has been taken against the Government operatives who pilfered the pesticides and sold them to unsuspecting farmers?

 

Ms Siliya: Mr Speaker, that is an important question that also applies to the distribution of inputs. Investigations have been instituted and those found wanting will be held accountable. The Government spent a lot of resources on the acquisition of the pesticides. Just this morning, I got a report from the Copperbelt relating to inputs from the Farmer Input Support Programme (FlSP) and pesticides for the eradication of army worms. I can assure you that the punishment we shall mete out against those found wanting shall serve as a warning.

 

I thank you, Sir.

 

Mr Ng’ambi (Chifubu): Mr Speaker, the hon. Minister mentioned the hectarages that was affected by the army worms and red locusts. What is the estimated loss in terms of grain from crop that has been attacked?

 

Ms Siliya: Mr Speaker, the experts have said that of the more than 1.2 million hectares of crop under production, under 200,000 hectares, representing about 10 per cent, have been infested with army worms. However, in most of the fields, less than 10 per cent of the crop has been destroyed. The Government’s prompt response of embarking on a replanting exercise also resulted