Southern Africa working on coordinated strategy to end fall armyworm invasion

A coordinated strategy to decrease the damage caused by fall armyworm in southern Africa, before the next season starts, was developed by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

David Phiri, FAO coordinator in southern Africa, said the strategy includes observations and reporting of the pest, recordings of the damage it caused, as well as the sustainable management and fighting of the worm.

“While countries are doing vulnerability assessments, the biggest problem we have now is the next cropping season,” said Phiri.

“The pest is there and we have to manage it, as it will affect next year’s production. We have not identified any particular pesticide that can control it and this is a race against time.”

He told the news service Inter Press Service, the FAO is also working with the South African government, who is leading the research on technology to help manage the pest.

Earlier in June, the FAO met in Ghana with experts from Latin America to get insight on management technology for possible application in Africa.

Brazil spends US$600 million annually to fight the pest in its maize fields.

According to estimates from the Centre for Agricultural and Biosciences International (CABI), about 13.5 million tons of maize worth US$3 billion can be destroyed due to the damage caused by the fall armyworm.

In Africa, the damage for the more than 80 plant species that the worm feeds on, is estimated at US$13.3 billion.

The FAO is also developing a long-term Integrated Pest Management strategy to sustainably manage the pest. The strategy includes forecasting, crop monitoring, the use of biological control options, resistant varieties and encouraging farmers to utilize good agricultural practices and the use of pesticides as their last option.

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