The Ministry of Agriculture Friday said it has instituted a team of technicians to determine the level of the caterpillar invasion and coordinate responses to mitigate the threats on farms in towns and villages in Bong and Nimba Counties.
The pests recently destroyed 2,000 hectares of crops in Zota District, spreading to six towns. Bong County Agriculture Coordinator (CAC) Kollie Nahn, recently informed the Ministry about the rapid spread of the infestation in five districts in the county. Panta and Jorquelleh Districts are the worst hit. Over ten communities have been affected.
“We are saddened by the repeated recurrence and rapid movements of those caterpillars in towns and villages in Bong and Nimba. Accordingly, we have put together an initial assessment team, along with key partners, to understand how far the caterpillars have spread, and what is the current impact on food security and livelihoods. A response team from the Ministry’s Extension and Technical Departments is also being mobilized to quickly move in those affected towns. We are working with our partners and support from donor-funded projects supervised by the Ministry,” a release from the Agriculture Ministry quoted Minister Jeanine Cooper.
According to the Ministry’s release, Minister Cooper indicated that the pests threaten food crops in affected counties, including rice, plantain, cassava among others.
“Whatever work farmers are doing in those areas are vulnerable to caterpillar attacks unless we have early and appropriate actions are taken which we have done. However, because these pests come back every so often, we are looking beyond just responding now but considering an eradication plan, so we won’t have to deal with them again.”
Min. Cooper has meanwhile instructed two donor-funded projects under the Ministry to underwrite the cost of the preliminary intervention.
“Already, the World Bank’s funded Smallholder Agriculture Transformation and Agribusiness Revitalization Project (STAR-P) and the Tree Crops Expansion Project (TCEP) backed by International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD) funding are coordinating the sourcing of required agro-chemicals, equipment and safety gears for the assessment teams to move by the end of this week,” the release said.
The Ministry’s latest decision follows after Min. Cooper and a delegation of officials visited the central Liberian town of Gbanay Town, Jorpolu Clan in Jorquelleh District Bong County, one of the several towns affected by caterpillar’s invasion which continues to destroyed farms and food crops.
Bong is one of the major food-producing counties from where residents of the Liberian capital, Monrovia rely on food crops.
Since December 2009, caterpillar invasion in farming communities has been occurring every two years and destroying farms in many counties, technicians at the Ministry said.
The first major occurrence, the caterpillars ravaged cocoa, coffee, rubber, plantain, banana, rice, vegetable farms, and polluted water sources in Bong, Gbarpolu, Lofa, and Nimba Counties.
Bong and Rivercess Counties were hit during the second invasion in October 2010 while Bong, Grand Bassa, Cape Mount, Maryland, River Cess, Sinoe, and River Gee felt the pinch in May 2012.
Only Bong, Montserrado, and Gbarpolu were affected in 2014. Then in 2016, the rapid spread of the caterpillars was spotted and the latest in January 2019 affected Maryland County.