FAO seeks strategies to control global food security threats

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has called for the urgent adoption of new measures to tackle 3 emergent, fast-spreading cross-border pests and diseases that pose threats to global food security.

In a statement issued after the World Organisation for Animal Health meeting that was held in Rome on 30 November, the FAO said the threats are fall armyworm (FAW), ovine rinderpest (also known as peste des petits ruminants) and banana fusarium wilt (BFW).

The meeting was convened to mobilise resources to fund the prevention, management and eradication of the 3 pests and diseases. The FAO described PPR as a fast-spreading viral disease of West African origins.

It has been confirmed in 70 countries, with higher prevalence rates in West Africa. PPR kills up to 90% of infected animals, especially small ruminants such as sheep and goats.

BFW is a destructive banana disease of Asian origin, although it is now more widespread in the Middle East. In Africa, it has been confirmed as present in Mozambique.

“Fall armyworm, PPR and banana fusarium wilt are rapidly-spreading, cross-border animal and plant pests and diseases that put the food security and livelihoods of millions of smallholder farmers at risk, stymie the economic prospects of entire countries and regions and have the potential to spread to new areas,” the FAO said.


According to the FAO, the first PPR outbreak was detected in Ivory Coast in 1942. Since then, it has spread to 70 countries in Africa, the Middle East, Europe and Asia.

“Today, over 80% of the world’s sheep and goat populations are at risk. It causes annual economic losses of up to $2.1 billion, and is severely impacting 300 million poor households and their communities as they depend on the animals for their very survival,” the FAO said.


The FAO said the fall armyworm is a native insect of South American origin. It was confirmed in Africa early in 2016 and now covers all of Sub-Saharan Africa. North Africa is at high risk of FAW outbreaks.

“It (fall armyworm) can eat over 80 crops and affects mostly smallholder maize farmers with no experience of the pest, and few resources to manage it. If left unchecked, FAW could impact negatively on the primary food sources of up to 200 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa, leading to annual economic losses of up to $4.8 billion from maize production alone,” the FAO analysis said.


The FAO defined BFW as a highly destructive banana disease whose Tropical Race 4 (TR-4) variant has devastated banana plantations and caused the abandonment of large tracts of fertile farmlands in South East Asia.

“It has recently spread to the Middle East, Mozambique and South Asia, and is likely to spread further. Bananas are the most exported fruit in the world and the most produced food crop in least-developed countries. Some 400 million people rely on bananas as a staple food and a source of income,” the FAO said.

The analysis said if unchecked, BFW infections can lead to 100% yield loss and jeopardise food security and livelihoods while upsetting the entire banana value chain.

The FAO needs up to US$87 million to support efforts towards the control and eradication of FAW in Africa. Separately, FAO also launched 2 5-year donor-backed global programmes for the prevention and management of BFW and PPR.

Also read:
FAO and OIE team up to fight PPR
Companion “push-pull” crop system proves successful against fall armyworm in East Africa
Mycotoxins in grains in subsistence farming systems: A threat to food safety and food security

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