Rwandan help to fight Fall Army Worm part of on-going cooperation – Army spokesman
ECONOMYNEXT – Rwandan military officers conducting experimental spraying of pesticides to combat the Fall Army Worm which is threatening maize cultivations is part of on-going military cooperation with that country, Army Spokesman Brig Chandana Wickremeratne said.
“We have close relations with many militaries across the world and a number of Rwandan officers are graduates of the Kotelawela Defense University,” Wickremeratne told EconomyNext.
The experiment involves the spraying of pyrethrum based pesticides which are harmful to bees, butterflies and other pollinators. Synthetically made pyrethroids persist in the ground and can kill beneficial insects, according to numerous international references including Sustainable Gardening Australia.
Farmers in the dry zone areas, particularly the Anuradhapura district have been asking the government for help with the fast-spreading caterpillar, locally known as “Sena” which can chew through acres of maize in a short time.
Submissions made to the authorities indicate that although the pest has been around for several seasons, this year it appears to be damaging crops faster than before.
Maize cultivation for human consumption as well as poultry feed and the manufacture of Ethanol is a lucrative agricultural activity.
Sri Lankan farmers have abandoned the traditional varieties of maize they have grown for centuries and replaced them with internationally developed hybrids which are more susceptible to the pest.
The State-run Dinamina newspaper reported that the Rwandan experts had come to Sri Lanka after President Gotabaya Rajapaksa had made a request to that country for help.
The president had made the request on a plea submitted by the Chancellor of the Rajarata University Eethalvatunuwewe Gnanatilaka thero who had asked for help for the farmers.
On December 26, President Rajapaksa visited farmers in the Anuradhapura district where he had a first hand view of the destruction caused by the Sena Worm.
Meanwhile, the Director-General of Agriculture Dr W W M Weerakoon says that his department is not involved in the experiment to use pyrethroids to combat the Sena caterpillar.
“None of the experts in our department are involved, this is an experiment being conducted by the Army,” he told MediaLK.com. (Colombo, January 4, 2021)
Reported by Arjuna Ranawana