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FAO hosts international experts to manage Fall Armyworm

By Lydia
Asamoah, GNA

Accra, July 18, GNA – The UN Food and
Agriculture Organisation (FAO) is hosting experts from the Americas and Africa
to deliberate on the outbreak of the Fall Armyworm (FAW) infestation that is
rapidly spreading across Africa.

The FAW is said to be destroying farm crops,
especially, maize across the continent, thereby causing significant yield
losses and posing a serious threat to food security.

As at June 2017, more than 25 African
countries including; Ghana had been confirmed of recording armyworm
infestations since the first official report of FAW presence in Nigeria, in
January 2016.

The swarms had affected more than 1.5 million
hectares of maize in just six affected countries.

The affected countries are Nigeria, Ghana,
Kenya, Ethiopia, Zambia and Zimbabwe and it was feared that if the infestations
were not controlled, it would pose a serious threat to African agriculture and
food security.

It is against this background that the FAO,
the technical agency of the UN, is convening the three-day meeting to exchange
practical experiences and best practices on how best to manage the FAW.

Mr Bukar Tijani, FAO Assistant Director
General and Regional Representative for Africa said it was estimated that there
were over 200 million people dependent on maize for food security in sub-Sahara
Africa.

He said the characteristics of the FAW also
made it difficult to control the pest, especially the moth that were strong
flyers, and the fact that they breed at a high rate while their larvae could
feed on a particularly wide range of host plants, including maize, sorghum,
rice, wheat, sugarcane, cowpeas, vegetable crops, among other.

He explained that the pest that had invaded
Africa was native to the Americas, where farmers and researchers had been
managing and studying it for many years.

Mr Tijani noted that though the socio-economic
context and production systems were quite different in the Americas, much of
the basic information about the FAW biology, ecology, natural control and
pesticide use was relevant to FAW management in Africa.

He explained that the meeting was therefore to
gather partners including scientists and agronomists and other countries to
listen to them and think of short, medium and long terms plans to deal with the
infestation since various efforts being made by affected governments had
yielded little results.

“That is exactly the objective of this Expert
meeting: Learning from the experience of the Americas, where the pest has long
been known and farmers have adjusted to manage it”, he noted.

He said the Americas had capitalised
knowledge, good practices, innovative policies and technologies that had huge
potential to be shared, adapted and adopted, and therefore the recommendation
from the meeting would be tested and adapted to local conditions across Africa
via the Farmers’ Field Schools and other forms of adaptive research.

Mr Hans Dreyer, Director of Plant Production
and Protection Division of FAO said the need to involve the farmers in the
deliberations and management of the pest was very critical to ensure that
farmers were equipped to manage the pest themselves.

“Farmers should be made to identify the pest
themselves, and to manage the pest on their own with simple methods of putting
sand, ash and earth into the cobs to destroy the eggs of the pest”, Mr Dreyer
said.

He charged the participants to also explore
the possibility of protecting other crops like rice, millet and sorghum from
other pests and bring out solutions to preserve them from worm infestations.

That he said would help improve Africa’s crop
production systems.

Experts from Brazil, Mexico, North America,
South Africa, Benin, Uganda, Cameroon and Ghana, would within the meeting
period, build knowledge and share information and collaborate in dealing and
managing the worm.

GNA

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