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Galvanizing the momentum for community actions against the Fall Armyworm

FAO and partners to scale up efforts to reduce the impacts of the pest on smallholders in Eastern Africa

The spread of the Fall Armyworm in the subregion could have long-term effects on crop yields, food supplies, trade, livelihoods, and resilience of communities. ©FAO/Abebe D.

04 December 2018, Kigali­:— Recognizing the enormity of the challenge the Fall Armyworm poses on smallholder farmers, government representatives and partners stressed the need to bolster a novel community-based approach being promoted in Eastern Africa to assist farmers and development agents at the frontline to identify and manage the spread of the pest.

In a meeting to review the progress of the subregional project, “Establishing an Emergency Community–based Fall Armyworm Monitoring, Forecasting, Early Warning and Management System in Eastern Africa,” representatives from six Eastern African nations, partners and the funding agency, United States Agency for International Development (USAID), reiterated the fact that the community-based monitoring and management system based on regular field scouting, pheromone trapping and mobile phone-based data collection and reporting should be scaled up for widespread impact in managing the damage caused by the pest.

“The project has been instrumental in laying down the foundations for allowing smallholder farmers to better understand the behaviour of the pest and learn management practices that can help farmers effectively control the pest without damage to human, animal and environmental health,” participants remarked.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations(FAO) Representative in Rwanda, Gualbert Gbehounou, reminded participants of the meeting that eradicating poverty and hunger may be difficult without rigorous community-oriented actions against the Fall Armyworm.

“Coordinated actions have to be strengthened to make sure the on-going subregional project leverages synergies to promote best practices and showcase results that can be scaled-up to other regions of Africa, where the pest is threatening national food and nutrition security,” he added.

Yeneneh Belayneh from USAID, Office of US Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA), noted that the impact of Fall Armyworm highlights a fundamental challenge smallholder farmers face - limited access to knowledge and information, tools, technologies and management practices - and the need for systems that effectively respond to this threat.

“USAID continues to strengthen the capacities of African communities, institutions and governments to manage Fall Armyworm through a range of sustainable and effective pest management strategies that protect people and the environment from hazardous chemicals,” he noted.

Charles Bucagu, Deputy Director General of Rwanda’s Agriculture and Animal Resources Development Board in Charge of Agricultural Research and Technology Transfer, underscored the fact that substantial roll-out of training and communication programmes has to be carried out along with the introduction of the FAO mobile-based Fall Armyworm monitoring and early warning system (FAMEWS). This, he said, would assist farmers and extension workers to detect the presence of the destructive insect early, assess the level of damage, identify its natural enemies, and take early action for sustainable management of the pest.

About Fall Armyworm

Fall Armyworm is an invasive and damaging pest that is spreading across Africa (and has now reached some parts of Asia). The pest is particularly targeting maize, a staple food for over 300 million African smallholder farm families, a significant number of which is found in the Eastern Africa sub-region.

The Eastern Africa subregion is already facing a regional humanitarian crisis, triggered by drought and leading to substantial food insecurity, particularly among livestock-owning communities, with lives and livelihoods devastated across the region. Today, almost 18 million people in the Horn of Africa are severely food insecure as consecutive seasons of poor rainfall have led to crop failures and widespread pasture and water shortages.

The spread of the Fall Armyworm in the subregion could therefore have long-term effects on crop yields, food supplies, livelihoods, trade, and threaten the resilience of chronically vulnerable populations.

About the project

Recognizing this challenge, FAO took immediate steps to tackle Fall Armyworm in the Eastern Africa Region and to support countries in mitigating the damage the pest caused. The subregional project is one of these projects, launched in December 2017 to support six Eastern Africa countries: Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda.

The two-year project is aimed at building the capacities of countries to effectively monitor and manage the Fall Armyworm (FAW) through community-based approaches, focusing on the monitoring and early warning systems to initiate timely and effective management actions to minimize crop loss.

The project also produces communication and educational materials for awareness creation and develops the capacities of extension workers and local communities to manage the worm. Prominent among these is the FAO/CABI publication, “Community-based Fall Armyworm monitoring, early warning and management: training of trainer manual”, which will be available soon.

Coordinated by FAO, the project is implemented by three partner institutions: the Desert Locust Control Organizations for Eastern Africa (DLCO-EA), the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE) and the Centre for Agriculture and Bioscience International with funding from the USAID/OFDA in the context of disaster risk reduction and through in-kind contributions from partnering agencies and participating countries

The purpose of the midterm review was to evaluate the performance of the project in terms of the application of the community-based approach in managing the Fall Armyworm. Over 30 participants from the six project countries as well as from implementing institutions: DLCO-EA, ICIPE, CABI and other partner organizations took part in the meeting.


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