The Centre for Agricultural Bioscience International (CABI) has established a €6.3 million state-of-the-art risk information service centre to strengthen the resilience of Zambian smallholder farmers to pests and crop diseases such as fall armyworm.
According to CABI, the centre was built with the support of International Partnerships from the United Kingdom (UK).
“This is a timely intervention that will support the needs of farmers in handling crop pests. With the right information disseminated, crops can be protected,” said British High Commissioner to Zambia, Fergus Cochrane-Dyet.
Cochrane-Dyet said the initiative will also contribute to Zambia’s food security as crop losses will be minimised.
CABI Global Director for Knowledge Management Brie Finegold said pest control is a significant intervention in increasing smallholder farmers’ crop production.
Finegold said the centre, located in Lusaka, is modelled around the realisation of the aims of Sustainable Development Goals 2, which focuses on ending hunger, improving nutrition and promoting sustainable agriculture.
“Our target is to first release information on maize, beans and tomatoes, 3 of the most important crops in Zambia.”
CABI, in collaboration with the Zambia Agriculture Research Institute (ZARI), has trained 300 extension officers and equipped them with pest-related information.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Agriculture said K15 million had been allocated to fight fall armyworm and other crop pests during this year’s farming season.
Last year more than 172 000 hectares of maize across all 10 provinces in Zambia were ravaged by armyworms. The cost of bringing the infestation under control has run into millions of kwacha.
The crop pests had also attacked Malawi, Zimbabwe and other neighbouring countries. This led to calls to put measures in place for an early warning system that could effectively respond to such infestations.