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Malawi farmers using sugar and fish soup to combat pests

Armed with fish soup and neem leaves, as well as chemical pesticides, Malawi's drought-hit farmers are fighting a caterpillar that is devouring their crops and threatening them with hunger.

Malawi’s Ministry of Agriculture stated that the fall armyworm, an invasive Latin American species that is harder to detect and eradicate than its African counterpart, has attacked maize plants covering one fifth of Malawi's arable land.

Agricultural researchers and farmers are fighting back with both imported and local approaches, while also attempting to combat the effects of a prolonged dry spell. reported on farmer Joyce Thom, for instance, applying crushed neem leaves to her maize stalks to kill the armyworm. "Some farmers are also using sugar mixed with soup made from fish called usipa, which is applied on the affected stems."

The sugar and soup attract ants which later feed on the fall armyworm themselves. And then people use soil, applied on stems where the worm hides, to suffocate it and break the cycle.

Nearly 2 million people are at risk of food shortages because of the effects of armyworms and drought. In response to the crisis, the government banned the export of maize earlier this month.

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