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FAO trains village facilitators to fight Fall Armyworm in South Sudan

A farmer inspecting maize crops in Torit to find Fall Armyworm. Photo: FAO/Tanya Birkbeck
12/07/2018

Faced with a widespread infestation of Fall Armyworm (FAW) over the past year, smallholder farmers in South Sudan are being forced to cope with this new additional foe amidst fears of poor access to and availability of food.

South Sudan is currently on high alert, as the main maize and sorghum growing season is currently underway. In order to respond the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security, with funding from Japan, has trained 104 frontline village facilitators over the past three months from different states in South Sudan. They will provide hands-on advice to farmers, and monitor and assess the impact of the pest across the country at community level. The trainings were held in Yambio, Torit, Aweil, Renk and Juba, starting in April and ending in early June, 2018.

Drawn from the Ministries and FAO partner organizations at county level, these village facilitators were extensively trained on the identification of the pest, its ecology and biology, the management options as well as monitoring and impact assessments.

Key guidelines and advice on effectively and sustainably managing Fall Armyworm include, but are not limited to, farmers taking direct action and crushing egg masses and young larvae and learn about its behavior to prevent further spread in fields.

“Curbing the impact of Fall Armyworm comes down to timely action, for this farmer education and community action is key,” says Dr. Monday Ahonsi, Project Manager for FAO.

“FAO’s practical trainings have ensured that village facilitators are well placed to immediately start applying their new skills to teach the farmers on how to manage the pest and provide important data that informs us on the severity and impact of it. This will guide further response,” he adds.

As Fall Armyworm is new to Africa and South Sudan, farmers’ and extension workers’ good understanding of the pest’s behavior and management practices are crucial in effectively managing it. FAO’s experience and research from other countries indicates it is possible to find natural enemies that attack the eggs or larvae, preventing the loss of yields.

Ahonsi explains that, “with this training village facilitators can for the first time see and identify the larvae at their different stages in the field, at different growth stages, hopefully allowing them to observe natural enemies that attack FAW eggs or larvae on the crop.”

FAO is working closely with the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security at national and state level to jointly assess the severity and spread of the infestations and instigate measures to further assist farmers combat the pest. Together they have established a network of 500 extension officers trained as trainers over the past six months to assist farmers.

In addition, FAO is also working with the World Food Programme to support farmers that have been affected by the pest to recover by providing them with food aid and social protection activities, allowing them to re-establish their livelihoods.