Agriculture Minister, Jeanine M. Cooper and a high-profile delegation from USAID Liberia recently toured two of the several caterpillar infested communities, including Yanniquelleh in Salala District and Kpotoloma in Sanoyea District, all in Bong County.
The USAID Liberia delegation on the one-day tour included; Rory Donohoe, USAID Liberia Deputy Mission Director; John Pasch, USAID Liberia’s Economic Growth Office Director; and Julia G. Chalphin, USAID Liberia’s Agriculture Officer.
The tour, according to a release was intended to provide the visiting team firsthand experience about the level of destruction being done by the caterpillars — both on crops and the setbacks on the livelihoods of farmers and rural dwellers in affected areas.
Since June 9, 2023, the Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) has convened two emergency stakeholder meetings with national and international scientists, researchers and technicians, as well as with Development Partners to plan a comprehensive national response to the outbreak.
Over the weekend, the Ministry began deploying teams of technicians to affected communities in six counties in an effort to curb the caterpillar outbreak in Bong, Nimba, Lofa, Bomi, Margibi and Gbarpolu Counties.
Working along with scientists from the Central Agriculture Research Institute (CARI), who were the first responders in Bong County, a total of 32 emergency teams are being equipped with the required chemical and bio-pesticides and motorized sprayers to halt the infestation and minimize the damage to crops and dwelling places in rural Liberia.
In addition, scientists and researchers from MoA and the National Public Health Institute of Liberia (NPHIL) will collect samples of the caterpillars for laboratory confirmation of the species in regional research centers, in order to aid medium and long-term eradication planning.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Agriculture has said that with the 2023 planting season underway, farmers and community dwellers are requested to immediately report any signs of caterpillars to local authorities.