Программа глобальных действий по борьбе с совкой

Developing capacity on fall armyworm management in Timor-Leste

Training event included Farmer Field School curriculum development
17 April 2024

Photo © Sundar Tiwari


Developing the knowledge and capacity of government extension workers in Timor-Leste to show farmers better maize cultivation and integrated pest management (IPM) practices for fall armyworm (FAW) was a key outcome of a recent five-day training event organized by FAO.

Learning to independently organize Farmer Field Schools (FFS) at community level and the development of a 16-week curriculum was also an important topic for the 39 participants in the refresher training held 18-22 March 2024. It included extension workers from the Aileu, Manufahi, Bobonaro, Lautem, and Viqueque municipalities of Timor-Leste, along with FAO field technical staff.

Sessions focused on IPM techniques such as improved crop cultivation practises and soil health, integrated management of FAW and other major insect pests, disease and weeds, as well as how to prepare and use plant-based biopesticides.

Theoretical classes, group discussions, participatory practical work, field visits, as well as method and result demonstrations were included in the training event that targeted FAW identification, damage, habitat, biology, and safe use of pesticides.

Such training for local extension workers is an essential step in coping with FAW in Timor-Leste, where 50 to 80 percent of all maize-growing municipalities have been severely affected by FAW since the destructive pest arrived in February 2020.

“FAW has caused a significant loss in maize crops and that is directly affecting the food security and livelihoods of poor farmers in Timor-Leste,” said Mr Sundar Tiwari, International Pest and Weed Management Specialist with FAO in Timor-Leste and one of the organizers of the training session held in Manufahi municipality.

“Farmers require training and support in effective management strategies as well as materials that are locally adaptable,” he said. “This event provided that.”

Promising FAW management practices reviewed during the training event included regular monitoring of maize fields for FAW infestations; plant health maintenance via appropriate use of fertilizer, irrigation, plant spacing, field sanitation, and choosing insect-resistant seeds. Other practices discussed included manually crushing FAW in the field; increased crop diversity through intercropping; ‘push-pull’ strategies; and biological control agents. Those ranged from such egg parasitoids as Telenomus remus and Trichogramma spp., insect predators such as ladybird beetles, spiders, and spray entomopathogens Metarhizium rileyi to kill FAW larvae.

The training event built on a technical co-operation programme (TCP) implemented in Timor-Leste through FAO and the Timor-Leste Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Forestry and Fishery (MALFF).

After the event, 95 percent of participants said they had benefited from the training, and that their knowledge of FAW and how to manage the pest had jumped by as much as 50 percent compared with their knowledge before the training. Participants had previously trained in the general pest management but not all had specific knowledge of FAW and weed management.