Can ICTs be used to fight pests’ outbreaks (for example Fall Armyworm?)


Can ICTs be used to fight pests’ outbreaks (for example Fall Armyworm?)

Agriculture has always been affected by plant pests and diseases, outbreaks can cause huge losses to crops and pastures and threatening the livelihoods of vulnerable smallholder farmers.

The following are some of the known pests that have caused in agriculture include, locusts, armyworm, fruit flies, banana diseases, cassava diseases and wheat rusts. 

Currently, the Fall Armyworm (FAW) has ravaged many countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. FAO has already offered a briefing note on FAW which can be read here.

The following map shows the countries in Africa affected by the FAW

ICTs and pests outbreaks

Information and communication technologies have proven to be useful in other aspects of agriculture and also in the fight against pests and diseases. Two recent examples are:

  • Farm Radio Trust

With regards to the current crisis of FAW, we have the use case of Farm Radio campaign in Malawi. In that campaign Farm Radio Trust used participatory radio and managed to reach out to more than 1 million small holder farmers.

They used radio programs, SMS push ups and community information Hub to monitor and deliver key information to farmers. This campaign was funded by USAID through Feed the Future Malawi Agriculture Diversification Activity.

Joyce Kaliwo, one of the call centre manager, was quoted saying that they have been overwhelmed with queries on how to manage Fall Armyworm. While they used to receive about 32 calls a month, in September they fielded 420 calls from farmers. (Farmradio)  

  • CABI – using space technology to fight against pests outbreaks

In response to the FAW, CABI is developing the Pest Risk Information Service (PRISE) which uses state-of-the-art technology to help farmers in sub-Saharan Africa when there are pests’ outbreaks – and is designed to help with Fall Armyworm.

In CABI Plantwise clinics use technology to give timely alerts and advice to farmers through tablets or smartphones. Through plantwise, farmers can be helped to detect diseases and also get real time diagnostics. Read more here

Tell us of the technologies you are using to fight plant pests, by responding to this blog

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Jaishanker Nair
Jaishanker NairIIITM-KeralaIndia

Whilst mobils Apps like (BIOTA - see Playstore) can play a great role in our efforts to curb FAW. ICT, in most cases are only as intelligent as the person behind it.

Let me draw a corollary to a common in-flight announced " the nearest escape door may be even behind you".

The best way to win over (or subdue pests/diseases) often lies outside the recognised cropping season. Hope you got the point.