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Introducing a sustainable management of Fall Armyworm in Madagascar through Farmer Field Schools

25/09/2019

Antananarivo – More and more maize farmers in Madagascar’s Vatomandry district are becoming equipped with the information they need to sustainably manage the Fall Armyworm (FAW) pest, thanks to FAO’s hands-on Farmer Field Schools (FFS).

 

As a response to the high prevalence of the extremely destructive FAW pest, the government undertook emergency measures including the support of field schools for farmers. Over 70 participants from two FFS training sessions in July 2019 are taking the skills and knowledge they acquired, including best practices in Integrated Pest Management (IPM), back to their communities to share with smallholder farmers who are dealing with the aggressive FAW. Some will do this by organizing field schools in their regions, based on core FFS principles of hands-on learning and local leadership.

The two training sessions in July included classroom learning, based on FAO guidance manuals and other training materials on controlling FAW; as well as hands-on field work. That involved 15 experimental plots of land where pheromone traps were installed to monitor the presence of FAW. Participants could put their new knowledge into action in applying such processes as Agro Ecosystem Analysis. Numerous experiments were also performed, such as comparing different maize varieties and several types of fertilizers. During the field work, students were also trained in understanding and applying traditional skills and cultural practices. These include the determination of the right planting time, by intercropping maize with other plants to distract the insect, by hand picking of FAW larvae, by applying ash to destroy it, or fish soup to attract natural enemies.

 

Towards the expansion of FAW management field schools in other regions 

At least 14 FFS groups composed by 257 members ­– almost 60 percent of them female – have been organized as a result of the July training sessions in Antananarivo, and mobilization is continuing. Organizers say they are hoping that more sessions will arranged be in other regions to train smallholder producers as well as more trainers, in order to continue to expand the reach of the field schools.

One of the two sessions involved 19 participants from Madagascar’s Directorate of Plant Protection and regional directorates in the Ministry of Agriculture, as well as other FAO partners. The second session included training of 52 facilitators from two cooperatives – producing 40 hectares and 160 hectares of maize, respectively – in Niarovana Caroline commune in Vatomandry district on the eastern coast of Madagascar.

At the end of the training, participants agreed that activities should be extended to other regions. Furthermore, extension manuals could be adapted to local contexts. Refresher training courses would be highly welcome and it would be good if all FFS plots could be mapped.

Further support for farmers in Madagascar, as in a number of other countries in the subregion of Eastern Africa, is available via the FAW Monitoring and Early Warning System (FAMEWS). FAMEWS, in addition to collecting data on infestations, has provided a direct and free advice to farmers on how to sustainably manage FAW in their fields. With the support of Norway’s VIPS service – a web-based forecasting and information system to help farmers deal with pests, diseases and weeds – farmers can also make reliable forecasts of the risks of FAW arriving to their fields.

 

For more information please contact: Verena.Wilke@fao.org