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FAO in Mozambique

Fall Armyworm: Farmers face new plague and losses compromise food security

Zacarias Chimene from Tica

25 July, 2019- Zacarias Chimene is a promising farmer who saw much of his maize harvest lost during the 2018/2019 agricultural season in the locality of Tica, Nhamatanda district, Sofala province.
"This pest does not spare," says the farmer who became desperate and almost quit farming after losing his crops. His farm was struck by a new plague that he could not control. Due to the damage, Chimene says that he even exceeded the limits of pesticide usage. He increased the dosage and frequency of application (instead of waiting 15 days for the pesticide withdrawal period, he applied it weekly) and opted for mixing two or more pesticides to reduce the worms population that devastated the crops.

"I used it overly that I ended up getting very sick, even with proper personal protection. It ended up intoxicating me," says Chimene. At some point, the farmer was quite discouraged by the losses and thought of giving up, but he gained strength to try once more.

In his backyard, Chimene sowed a small area to test new methods to fight the plague. He noted that by applying pesticides late in the morning or early in the morning, the worms died. In this cool season, the producer also noted that the occurrence of the pest is lower compared to the warm season. "I see the pest is minimally controlled, not as alarming as in March," he said.

In addition to the support received from the agricultural extension workers from the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security (MASA), Chimene is part of the FAO Farmer Field School (FFS) approach. He has a group of 30 farmers, with whom he shares weekly his experience from FAO trainings on climate change, seed multiplication and pest and agricultural disease control.
The farmer, with a total cultivation area of eight ha, where he sows a variety of maize and vegetables, gained a lot of experience through the FFS approach.

In addition to pest control, Chimene integrates several actions he learned from FFFS in his fields such as conservation agriculture, soil smoothing, intercropping and the production of biological fertilizers and pesticides.

Extension workers from all the country are being trained in FAW monitoring and management
To better assist producers like Chimene from Tica, FAO is training extension workers from the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security (MASA) from all the country to monitor and manage the FAW, officially reported in the country in 2017.

The training is part of the Mozambique Smallholder Productivity and Productivity Support project, signed in August last year by FAO and MASA, funded at US $ 5.6 million by USAID.

So far, including the present group, 170 extension workers have been trained in a universe of 490 technicians, who will be able to assist 125,000 producers all over the country.

FAO bets on technologies to control FAW  

The extension workers have also been trained in the use of a new applicative installed on smartphones called Fall Armyworm Monitoring and Early Warning System (FAMEWS), an early warning system that detects and reports the FAW infestation level in a timely manner. National agricultural authorities can use this data for planning, prioritizing and decision making for the worm management.

The organization has distributed more than 140 smartphones and tablets with the FAMEWS application installed to agricultural extension workers who provide technical assistance to producers across the country.
In addition to these devices, FAO has distributed around 500 traps, 1500 pheromones and 80 vapona boxes for monitoring this pest.

In Mozambique, the highest prevalence of the pest was reported in Zambezia, Maputo, Manica and Gaza provinces. The province of Sofala in particular has been severely affected by the worm in this cool season, with high levels of infestation.
FAO expert, Domingos Cugala, believes that "to fight the pest, after these trainings, technicians will be able to better assist farmers and train other extension technicians to monitor and manage this pest."

FAO recognizes that, in recent years, the country has seen an increasing number of invasive species in the agrarian sector with serious implications and consequences for production and productivity, endangering the food security of millions of people across the country, mainly in rural areas.

To address this problem, producers have resorted to the use of chemical pesticides. Still, the FAO expert warns of increased precautionary use of pesticides as they can affect human health, the environment and develop pest resistance to pesticides.