Lilongwe — A dry spell and worsening pest infestation are threatening Malawi’s staple maize crop, prompting President Peter Mutharika on Friday to call on government officials to lead prayers for rain. Impoverished Malawi is periodically hit by food shortages as the country relies heavily on rain-fed agriculture and most of its maize is grown on small plots by subsistence farmers. The current dry spell has been exacerbated by an outbreak of crop-munching fall armyworms, a pest from Latin America that first threatened African crops late in 2016. In a statement, Mutharika asked cabinet ministers and all senior government officials to lead prayer vigils at mosques and churches starting on Friday and throughout the weekend. "The President urges the faith community and all Malawians to pray for good rains and a productive season this Friday, Saturday and Sunday," the statement said. Such a call can have resonance in deeply religious Malawi, which has high rates of church and mosque atten...

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