FAO au Cabo Verde

Calls for stronger actions for the sustainable management of Fall Armyworm

©FAO/Samuel Creppy

Praia [Cabo Verde] ‒ Fall Armyworm remains a global challenge and poses significant threat in achieving the 2030 agenda targets on food and nutrition security, and to find lasting solutions to this transboundary insect pest, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), urged the use of biological methods and sustainable pest management systems.

This was the highlight of the discussion during the recent Multi-stakeholder Regional Workshop on Innovations for Smallholder Farmers for Sustainable Management of Fall Armyworm in Africa. Organized by FAO, more than 100 delegates attended the event and they represented affected countries in Africa, the Near East, pan-African institutions, NGOs, and Research and Development organizations.

Detected in Central and Western Africa in early 2016, Fall Armyworm has now spread across Africa and affecting more than 45 African countries. This invasive insect is known to feed on over 100 plant species, primarily maize, millets and sorghums. If not well managed and in the absence of natural biological control, Fall Armyworm can cause significant yield losses.

Addressing participants at the opening of the Multi-stakeholder Regional workshop, FAO’s Director of Plant Production and Protection, Hans Dreyer, illustrated the damaging impact of the Fall Armyworm, which currently affects nearly 40 million hectares of maize farms in Africa with about 98 percent of smallholder family farmers affected.

“Fall Armyworm is a threat to the food security and livelihoods of smallholders whose crops are affected. It seriously undermines the achievement of African countries’ goals in the context of the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme, CAADP, the Malabo Declaration, and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It is also equally important that we are emphasizing the needs of smallholder farmers, ”Dreyer added.

FAO Representative to Cabo Verde, Ana Laura Touza, urged all stakeholders to continue the dialogue on finding innovative management of the pest, and she further explained that FAO has been formulating and financing two projects to mitigate the effects of Fall Armyworm in Cabo Verde. “These projects are nearing completion and have already provided stocks of biological products, treatment equipment and strengthened the skills and knowledge of technical institutions in Cabo Verde,” she added.

FAO engages smallholder farmers

Following the first outbreak of Fall Armyworm in Africa, several African countries encouraged the use of pesticides for controlling the insect; these short-term control measures are often problematic and unsustainable, and do not make economic sense for the millions of smallholder cereal farmers, as their costs are high while the value of increased yields do not pay for this short-term approach.

To elaborate more on the workshop the Plant Production and Protection Officer at FAO, Regional Office for Africa, Jean Baptiste Bahama, explained that with the outbreak of Fall Armyworm, smallholders need access to sustainable practices, and it is necessary FAO engages them to share experiences from past and ongoing projects, particularly progress of the pilot experiences on biologically-based technologies. He added, “Although pesticides can produce short-term control, they are not accessible to small farmers and can have negative human health and environmental impacts. For long-term management of Fall Armyworm, smallholders need access to sustainable practices”

FAO also assists smallholders through technological innovations such as the Fall Armyworm Monitoring and Early Warning System (FAMEWS). This system consists of a mobile app that allows smallholders, communities and extension agents to monitor presence of the pest in their fields and timely choose context-specific management solutions based on the best available advice.

FAO and global approach to Fall Armyworm

FAO has been working with many partners to identify, validate, and use sustainable pest management practices for Fall Armyworm. With FAO’s Integrated Pest Management Programme for Smallholder farmers, the organization prioritizes the creation of opportunities and platforms for further innovation to develop knowledge and effective solutions for smallholders

This multi-stakeholder workshop also provided the platform for participants to raise awareness of decision makers in the region on the feasibility of local production of biological control agents, identify the challenges in relation to Fall Armyworm control in Africa and to initiate international collaboration.