Invasion could be the worst in 30 years, and spread to neighboring countries. Transcript of radio broadcast:
This is the VOA Special English Agriculture Report.
Liberia say tens of millions of caterpillars are destroying crops and
polluting waterways in the country's agricultural centers.
United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization says the caterpillars
are invading houses in some areas. More than one hundred thousand
people have fled their homes because of the insects.
government in Monrovia has appealed for international help. Agriculture
Minister Christopher Toe urged other countries to help save Liberia's
crops and other vegetation that the caterpillars feed on.
caterpillars are black and hairy and two to three centimeters long.
They were first reported in Bong County in northern Liberia on January
fifteenth. They have spread into areas of Lofa County and Gbarpolu
County, bordering Guinea and Sierra Leone.
The area struck by
the caterpillars has some of the richest farmland in Liberia. The
agriculture minister said Bong County grows most of the country’s
cassava, eddoes, plantains, bananas and potatoes.
an environmental activist, said the Liberian food supply is sure to
suffer. He noted that Bong and Lofa counties produce the most rice, and
he added, “We cannot live without rice.”
As the caterpillars feed on crops, their waste pollutes waterways and drinking wells.
caterpillar invasion could be the country's worst in thirty years.
Winfred Hammond is the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization
representative in Liberia. He says an unusually late rainy season might
be causing the invasion. And unless it is quickly contained, he says,
it could grow into a crisis involving Guinea, Sierra Leone and Ivory
Workers are using hand-operated pumps to spray
pesticides to kill the caterpillars, but others quickly return. And
hand pumps cannot reach insects in tall trees. Many of the caterpillars
live on the leaves of forest trees such as the Dahoma, which can rise
more than eight meters. But the F.A.O. representative in Liberia warned
about spraying pesticides from airplanes because of the risk of
additional water pollution.
The caterpillars were suspected to
be African armyworms -- so named because they look like an army on the
march. And Howard Russell, an insect expert at Michigan State
University, says once they get to the marching point, they are
difficult to stop.
And that's the VOA Special English Agriculture Report, written by Jerilyn Watson. Transcripts, MP3s and podcasts of our reports are at voaspecialenglish.com. I'm Jim Tedder.