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New global alliance calls for stronger research collaboration to address the Fall Armyworm in Africa

Concerted efforts needed to effectively manage pest in Africa

FAO has so far implemented more than 40 projects worth US$ 12 Million to fight the pest in Africa. Photo: ©FAO/Tamiru Legesse

30 October 2018, Addis Ababa – Delegates attending the first global International Conference on Fall Armyworm Research-for-Development, have called for a stronger and more coordinated research effort in the fight against the voracious crop munching pest. The African Union Commission (AUC), AGRA, CABI, CIMMYT, FAO, icipe, IITA and USAID organized the meeting.

H.E. Mrs Amira Elfadil, Commissioner for Social Affairs at the African Union, reminded the delegates that Africa was eagerly looking forward to a science-based International Consortium that provides a platform for sustained research collaboration, adaptation and learning for better management of Fall Armyworm across diverse agro-ecologies in Africa.

“I am pleased that during this conference, ambitious work to establish an inclusive, science-based Research for Development initiative, by which evidence-based tools that are safe, effective, accessible and sustainable are developed and deployed across Africa,” she said.

Despite some efforts to manage the Fall Armyworm, the invasive pest keeps advancing to new areas. Its recent detection in Asia (India), for the first time, demonstrates how far it can travel in a very short time. Concerted efforts and significant resources are thus needed to sustainably manage the pest effectively and save billions of dollars in annual losses to several African food staples.

Putting the farmer at the centre of the response

“No single solution would be effective in managing Fall Armyworm on its own. We, however, need not completely reinvent the wheel. There is a lot of expertise and knowledge – including indigenous – in the continent and elsewhere. But the farmer has to be central to all our efforts”, said Hans Dreyer, Director of FAO's Plant Production and Protection Division.

Smallholder farmers across the continent continue to bear the brunt of the Fall Armyworm’s insatiable appetite as it ravages through maize fields, increasingly attacking sorghum and millet too. It is thus essential to think of the management and response actions from the farmer’s perspective.

Over the past two years, FAO and other organizations have rolled out several projects and programmes in sub-Saharan Africa to help farmers and governments to immediately cope with damage caused by the new pest. These include the provision of technical advice on pesticide management, monitoring and early warning systems, and a practical guide for farmers and government extension workers on how to best manage the pest.

One innovative Fall Armyworm management tool developed by FAO is the Fall Armyworm Monitoring and Early Warning System (FAMEWS) mobile app. The App is particularly useful for farmers and agricultural workers to prevent their crops from further infestations and losses. On the other hand, Fall Armyworm management actors are also finding the App useful as it provides them with the necessary data to analyse the risks and spread of the pest.

FAO has so far implemented more than 40 projects worth US$ 12 Million to fight the pest in Africa. Major funding partners in for this response include; African Development Bank, Belgium, Ireland, Japan, Norway, USAID-OFDA,

The new research alliance

Thirty-five organizations have joined efforts in a global coalition of research for development to further develop the scientific basis necessary for the long-term sustainable management of the Fall Armyworm.

Based on coordination efforts led by FAO to mobilize technical expertise to needed to address the Fall Armyworm challenge, this work will be strengthened by a research coordination mechanism

The alliance presents a new opportunity to identify and prioritize essential Research for Development issues covering various thematic areas of Fall Armyworm. It will also identify and further develop priority research areas and develop an action plan.

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