The Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) has confirmed a major outbreak of Caterpillar infestation in the country, identifying at least 7 counties as being so far affected.
The MOA’s Deputy Minister for Technical Services, Dr. Sizi Z. Subah, confirmed the infestation Thursday, June 19, during the weekly Ministry of Information press conference in Monrovia.
Dr. Subah named Gbarpolu, Bong and Lofa Counties as being the hardest hit, but also identified four other counties as experiencing minor infestations.
“We are now experiencing major infestation of the pests (caterpillars) in Gbarpolu, Lofa and Bong Counties. These counties fall within the continuous forest belt along the St. Paul River and Vai River,” he explained.
He attributed the cause of the caterpillar infestation in these counties this year to climate change.
The Deputy Minister further disclosed that minor infestations were taking place in Nimba, Montserrado, Maryland and Grand Kru Counties.
He recalled that in 2008, Liberia experienced a similar outbreak of caterpillars in several counties, affecting over 400,000 rural inhabitants, which led to the declaration of a state of emergency.
Dr. Subah said it took several months of engagement with the International Community to mobilize resources to fight that caterpillar invasion.
“This year the caterpillars have reappeared massively in the three counties, destroying crops and displacing a lot of people,” the Health Ministry official said.
He noted the fact that the infestation has taken place in June instead of November through March as was the case in 2008.
“The Ministry would like to assure the public that caterpillar is not the army worm. It is, however, causing damages to food crops and cash crops, which include rice, ground nuts and cowpeas.”
The caterpillar is also polluting with their feces rivers and creeks upon which rural people depend, he said.
Dr. Subah further indicated that the Ministry was making efforts to bring the situation under control.
“A team of Agricultural technicians has been dispatch to the various counties to contain the infestation,” he said.
He meanwhile called on rural community dwellers to remain calm and report to local authorities any occurrence of caterpillars in their communities.