FAO supports the African Union in developing Early Warning Systems for Plant Pests and Diseases

27/11/2013 - 

During a meeting held in November, FAO the Inter-Africa Phytosanitary Council of the African Union (AU-IAPSC) and the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries (MoALF) of Kenya discussed ways forward to developing a Rapid Alert and Response System for Plant Pests and Diseases in Africa.

As an outcome, FAO and AU-IAPSC were tasked with establishing a regional surveillance network, starting with the Eastern Africa region before extending to the rest of the continent.

FAO has a vast experience in the area of early warning systems given its participation in tried and tested global systems such as the Global framework for the progressive control of TADs (GF-TADs), the Global Early Warning Systems (GLEWS) and the Emergency Prevention System (EMPRES).

Setting apart FAO as an authority in the field, these system form a rich resource bank for the sharing of knowledge, experience and lessons learned with the African Union.

In his opening remarks, Mr. Luca Alinovi, incoming FAO Representative in Kenya said that FAO is very happy to collaborate with the African Union Commission (AUC). “There is  a lot that we can copy from FAO to make it work. We should not necessarily  strive for a perfect system, we should strive to make it work,” was his advice.

AU-IAPSC Dr. Jean Gérard Mezui M'ella, said that the AUC would put in place a permanent rapid response system for crop pests and diseases. He decried the lack of capacity in Africa for early warning and pointed that this is a real threat to food security on the continent because of the damage to crops. “The AUC therefore approached FAO, whose experience in dealing with animal health diseases will go a long way in supporting AU-IAPSC.”

He explained that cases like the fruit fly, the Maize Lethal Necrosis Disease (MLND), Cassava Brown Streak Disease (CBSD), Banana Xanthomonas Wilt (BXW) entered Africa unnoticed in the past and “their spread is now causing serious damage to many countries in the region while neighboring countries are being threatened.”

“While it is always breaking news when there is an animal disease outbreak that causes death of several animals, we hardly get to hear of an outbreak in plant diseases in the same mass media. We need to set up systems that ensure plant diseases are also highlighted with the same zeal” was the point made by Esther Kimani from Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Services.

The meeting, the first of many to be held on the issue, was attended by experts from governments and research institutions from South Sudan, Uganda, Ethiopia, Cameroon, Kenya, AU-IAPSC, CIMMYT, ICIPE, ICRISAT, and FAO.

Submitted by: Eric Kimani
Country: Kenya