Governments and non-governmental organisations in Africa have been challenged to concentrate on funding programmes that form partnerships to build local institutional capacity and farmer resilience against the fall armyworm (FAW), since it is “here to stay”.
The call was made by stakeholders at a joint expert and multi-stakeholder meeting convened recently in Johannesburg by the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) and the United Nations (UN) Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).
The discussions were focused on crafting a regional response and plan of action against the FAW this farming season, drawing from lessons learnt during the devastating 2016/’17 outbreak.
Key among the observations was that since the FAW had established itself on the continent and in the SADC region in particular, farmers and governments should find effective and sustainable ways of managing it.
“Given its adaptability and tenacious nature, many experts believe that the pest will continue to build momentum and impact on food security in the region in the coming seasons and years. However, we have an opportunity to prevent this threat from reaching disastrous proportions by building the resilience of farmers and institutions to this pest,” said David Phiri, the FAO’s Sub-regional Coordinator for Southern Africa.
FUNDING AND RESOURCES
To help farmers, governments and donors were challenged to allocate more funding to the development of combined institutional capacities and infrastructure to manage the FAW and other emerging and re-emerging crop pests.
Phiri said there was an urgent need for financial resources to fund programmes to cover critical gaps in Africa’s current strategy against the FAW. These include farmer education and awareness, the building of individual-country and regional capability for pest monitoring and surveillance, in addition to conducting impact assessments and upgrading research capabilities.
According to the FAO, the fall armyworm has infested all Southern African countries except Lesotho and Mauritius. During the 2016/’17 cropping season, the FAW destroyed 27 000 hectares of crops in Botswana, 138 000 hectares in Malawi, 23 000 hectares in Namibia, over 280 000 hectares in Zambia and 1.5 million hectares in Zimbabwe.
The meeting ended with a call for more research into adaptive anti-FAW technologies such as conservation agriculture (agro-forestry) and the “push-pull” cropping system, which seeks to control pests through the planting of selected varieties of repellent “push” plants and “pull” crops.
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