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FAO, Tanzania sign agreement to respond to fall armyworm

FAO Representative Fred Kafeero speaking soon after the signing. Next to him is Eng. Mtigumwe
31/01/2018

Maize and rice most affected crops

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the Ministry of Agriculture have today signed a cooperation agreement that aims to support Tanzania in building its surveillance and management capacity to respond efficiently to fall armyworm (FAW) invasion in the country.

The agreement comes at a time when fall armyworm invasion has been reported in several parts of the country destroying crops mainly maize and paddy rice thereby posing a threat of food insecurity in those areas. So far FAW invasion has been reported in Rukwa, Kagera, Pwani, Geita, Simiyu, Mwanza, Morogoro, Kilimanjaro and Njombe regions.

Speaking at the signing ceremony event in Dodoma, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, Mathew Mtigumwe, described the agreement as timely coming at a time when the Government was taking measures to contain the invasion.

“The Ministry of Agriculture continues to monitor the threat posed by fall armyworm outbreak in the country. Besides, we’ve also deployed agricultural experts, educated farmers on how to fight the worms, bought and distributed pesticides,” he said.  Mtigumwe noted that the potential of FAW to cause serious damage and yield losses is very alarming. “The Government takes the matter very seriously and the support by FAO will add to the ongoing efforts to control the menace,” he noted.

Strengthen surveillance, raise awareness

Through the agreement, FAO will provide technical and financial support worth USD 250,000 (over Tshs. 550 million) to strengthen surveillance and raise awareness on the pest before and during the next farming seasons. The response will involve different stakeholders from local and regional governments, academia, research institutes and Disaster Management Department in the Prime Minister’s Office.

FAO Country Representative, Fred Kafeero, noted the Organization was already working with Governments in southern Africa to control the damage caused by the pest.  “Fall armyworm is a new threat in southern Africa and we’re very concerned with its emergence, intensity and spread,” said Kafeero.  “It is only a matter of time before most of the region is affected, and the costs and implications of this could be very serious. An efficient surveillance system will enable the Government, FAO and other development partners to mount a coordinated response to this threat,” he added

FAO works closely with the Southern Africa Development Cooperation (SADC), the African Union (AU) and other partners to implement the necessary assessment interventions to improve understanding on the extent and intensity of fall armyworm threat to the region.

In September last year, FAO handed over 216 pheromone traps to the Ministry of Agriculture to be used for the surveillance of fall armyworm (FAW) infestation in the country by determining the gravity of the problem and provide information necessary for designing interventions.

Background

Fall Armyworm (FAW) is an invasive pest native to the Americas. Since the first official report of FAW presence in Nigeria in January 2016, the incidence of the pest has been confirmed in 38 countries in Africa as of December 2017. FAW can feed on more than 80 plant species, including maize, sorghum, rice, wheat, sugarcane, cowpeas, vegetable crops, and cotton. Due to the complex nature of fall armyworm infestation, high spreading performance, high reproductive capacity and wide host range, it is most likely that the pest will soon be able to colonize most African countries and pose a great impact to countries’ food security and livelihood.

In response to this challenge, FAO teamed up with relevant partners to develop a framework for a coordinated response to FAW based on an action plan agreed upon at a multi-stakeholders’ meeting in April 2017 in Nairobi, Kenya. This framework will guide the development of projects and programmes by the various stakeholders in the areas of their expertise, capacities and mandate. The framework consists of four main components: surveillance and early warning, impact assessment, sustainable management and coordination.