Acción mundial de lucha contra el gusano cogollero del maíz

Zambian experts applaud farmer-led FAW control innovations in Malawi

21 February 2023

Farmer-led innovations, including botanical pesticides being used locally for effective and sustainable fall armyworm (FAW) management in Malawi, have been applauded by Zambian experts and Ministry of Agriculture officials participating in a recent, multi-day learning initiative. 

“The identification of a wider range of botanical pesticides being utilized in Malawi is a fascinating development, given the regional specificity of plant adaptation,” Mathews Matimelo, Principal Research Officer with the Zambia Agriculture Research Institute (ZARI), said during the five-day learning tour in Malawi, one of eight demonstration countries under the Global Action for FAW Control.  The learning visit, involving 14 participants, began on 6 February 2023.

“While several botanical studies have been conducted in Zambia, only four plant species have been tested,” added Matimelo, as participants learned more about application at scale of effective and innovative FAW management technologies during sessions at Lweya irrigation scheme in Nkhatabay district.

“This presents farmers with a wide range of botanical pesticides to select from, thereby enabling the utilization of those readily available in their locality,” he said.

Zambian officials commended Malawian farmers for their innovations and knowledge in the use of aqueous extract from Tephrosia vogelii, a technology originating in their own community. They said they were also impressed by the diversity of effective botanical pesticides. Application of these was seen in large-sized plots of 5 ha and 2.5 ha used for the national and regional demonstrations, respectively.

Collaborating for food security in southern Africa

The learning visit came during the rain-fed season in Malawi, the main season for crop production, which farmers rely on for their livelihoods. FAW, whose presence was confirmed in Malawi in the 2016-17 rain-fed planting season, has continued to pose a threat to production of maize and other cereals since then. However, through season-long farmer field school (FFS) studies, farmers have gradually moved from over-reliance on synthetic pesticides to discovering locally available, effective and sustainable ways of managing pest outbreaks. 

Such innovations form part of the technologies that the delegates from Zambia observed at Malawi’s national and regional demonstration sites at Chitedze research station in Lilongwe, and at the Lweya irrigation project. The demonstrations were being mounted within the framework of the Global Action, a FAO initiative launched in December 2019 to scale-up international and national actions to sustainably control the spread and impacts of FAW worldwide.  

Over the course of the visit, the Zambia delegates learned that Neorautanenia mitis (Mphanjovu), Pueraria montana (Dema), and Bobgunnia madagascariensis (Mndundu) have been shown to be effective for FAW control in Malawi. The team said these would be further evaluated for efficacy in Zambia. Other technologies/treatments applied at the demonstration sites included the pesticide flubendiamide (used for performance comparison with botanical pesticides), and intercropping of maize with legumes, which is a common farmer practice in Malawi.

George Phiri, Assistant FAO Representative in Malawi, said such information exchanges among various players are critical in the fight against FAW. 

“Learning visits are planned for dissemination of integrated pest management (IPM) technologies nationally and across the region. The demonstrations offer first-hand and on-site observation of the performance of different fall armyworm management technologies, which are pillars for IPM that can be applied on an area-wide scale,” said Phiri. 

Other activities included a field visit to Lisasadzi residential training center in Kasungu district. There, the participants observed various studies that have been mounted in the rainfed and winter seasons from 2019 to date, through FFS initiatives funded by the European Union. 

In addition, FAO and the Government of Malawi organized a meeting, where researchers, extension staff, academics, policymakers, and technical experts shared country-specific experiences and exchanged knowledge on FAW management. Meeting participants, with online and physical attendance, came from Zambia, Mozambique, Malawi, and the United Republic of Tanzania, Zanzibar. 

National-level demonstrations for the 2022-2023 season have been established at Chitedze agriculture research station; and regionally, at Lweya irrigation scheme in the northern region, and Kasinthula agriculture research station in the southern region of Malawi. Implementation of Global Action demonstrations includes training sessions, knowledge exchange forums such as the visit by the Government of Zambia officials, extension activities, and field days to expose farmers to the technologies being used in FAW management. 

Lessons learnt through the demonstration programme in Malawi will contribute to a key objective of the Global Action, which is to reduce crop losses due to FAW by five percent in all demonstration countries and 10 percent in pilot countries.

Malawi, as one of the Global Action demonstration countries, is leading on implementation of a two-year work plan for FAW control, and providing technical support for the dissemination of IPM technologies in southern Africa. As a demonstration country, Malawi is working with 11 pilot countries in the southern African geozone: South Africa, Angola, Mozambique, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Madagascar, Lesotho, Eswatini, Botswana, Namibia, and the United Republic of Tanzania, Zanzibar. It is being implemented from 2020 to 2023.