Программа глобальных действий по борьбе с совкой

Learning to detect, manage, and prevent FAW in Solomon Islands and neighbouring Pacific Island countries

15 February 2024

Capacity development through shared knowledge and experiences was the focus of a five-day subregional workshop on fall armyworm (FAW) management involving 25 participants, including regional and local agriculture officials and stakeholders from Solomon Islands and neighbouring Pacific Island countries (Photo: ©FAO)


The workshop, with training sessions covering prevention, preparedness and sustainable management of FAW, was held from 11 to 15 December 2023 in Honiara, Solomon Islands, and also marked the conclusion of a two-year project organized in response to FAW’s arrival in the Pacific Islands region. Organized through FAO’s Global Action on Fall Armyworm Control, sessions emphasized lessons learned, challenges, and opportunities in the four project participating countries: Fiji, Samoa, Solomon Islands, and Vanuatu. 

The spread of FAW beyond its native range in the Americas, first recorded in Africa in 2016, quickly covered much of the globe, threatening maize and rice production, food security and the well-being of farmers. The pest was first detected in the Pacific region in early 2020 in Australia, Papua New Guinea, and Timor-Leste, but the response was slowed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Further invasion by the pest was recorded in Solomon Islands in 2021 and New Zealand in 2022and recently in Vanuatu in 2024. Workshop participants agreed that FAW is still spreading within Pacific Island countries.

As the event took stock of the FAW situation, participants also agreed on the importance of strengthened coordination for pest prevention and management at regional and national levels. Many saw the FAW threat as a learning point to develop awareness, as well as emergency and management plans for other transboundary pests and diseases found in the region.

“Regional coordination and participatory approach are the success key for managing transboundary plant pests. These workshops bring together stakeholders from a range of agencies and perspectives, to help them handle a significant threat that is very new to this region,” said Mr Maged Elkahky, assistant team leader for Locust and Transboundary Plant Pests in FAO.

Mr Chris Dale of Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) shared lessons learned in that country on preparedness, coordination, and collaboration. “Such sharing of experiences offers tools for farmers to apply in their fields,” said Ms Jeffline Mercy Tasale, plant health officer, Vanuatu Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Forestry, Fisheries and Biosecurity (MALFFB). “The information that I am getting from this workshop, I will share that with my teammates so that we can use it in our work activities, so we can manage fall armyworm in our country,” she added.

Mr Loti Vaisekavea, permanent secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock in Solomon Islands, reminded participants of the importance of biosecurity measures in confronting problems of transboundary pests and diseases.

The workshop also trained participants in pest surveillance, emergency responses and management, as well as how to collect data using FAO’s Fall Armyworm Monitoring Early Warning System (FAMEWS) application. The mobile app was developed to collect and transmit data on FAW to be used in early warning systems, and a global platform was established to provide a situation overview in near-real time with maps and analytics of FAW infestations at global and country levels.

Learning to apply FAMEWS was especially helpful to take back to Fiji for application there, said Mr Apenisa Sailo, principal research officer, Fiji’s Ministry of Agriculture. FAW has not yet been reported in Fiji, but preparations are being made.

“Attending workshops help us to gain more knowledge and skills, especially with FAMEWS because we haven’t yet tried that in our situation in Fiji,” he said. FAW management activities there have included installation of pheromone traps near sugar cane crops as part of a homegrown strategy for pest management, one focused on “a prevention and preparedness approach,” Mr Sailo added.

The Solomon Islands workshop included a field visit to integrated pest management (IPM) trial sites at the Don Bosco Technical Institute in Honiara. Those sites focus on use of biopesticides and maize intercropping. But cultural training is also important in Solomon Islands as farmers and specialists alike are still learning about FAW and how to respond to the pest, said Maria Gharuka, chief research officer, Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock.

“We first learned about FAW in a workshop and training last April, understanding its life cycle and management options – and that FAW is quite tricky to control,” Ms Gharuka said in an interview.

“One important message that I want to take to the farmers is to just be careful when you share planting materials. If farmers take planting materials back to an island, that will give the pest a good chance to spread.”