FAO Regional Office for Near East and North Africa

Strengthening capacities of NENA countries to mitigate fall armyworm: emergency preparedness and response

The launch of a regional FAO emergency response project to combat fall armyworm (FAW) in the Near East North Africa (NENA) region has meant new training activities in four countries – Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria, plus the West Bank and Gaza Strip. A series of workshops and lectures has provided farmers with detailed information on FAW  damage, biology, behaviour, monitoring and possible control methods for FAW, all based on available budgets and local resources.

The training activities follow an inception workshop held on 23 February 2021 for the project that aims to support national capacities in pest surveillance, pest management and biological control tools. Plans are to document natural enemies of FAW already occurring in these countries and investigate the efficacy of sustainable control methods; as well as developing four national workplans that cover the main contingency and response measures against FAW. Virtual training is planned for specialists in FAW monitoring, use of the FAMEWS mobile app, and FAW sustainable management. As part of this, 300 pheromone traps were distributed in Lebanon.

Four demonstration maize fields, ranging in size from five to 10 hectares, were selected in each relevant country following the suggested FAO monitoring and integrated pest management (IPM) plan. A survey of natural enemies in corn fields was initiated, and promising results have been reported from Syria on Trichogramma, Braconids, Crysoperlla and entomopathogenic fungi. An extensive survey is also running in Jordan, Lebanon, and the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Farmers trained  in necessary skills to deal with insect pests

Meanwhile, IPM farmer field schools (FFS) were established in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, and the West Bank and Gaza Strip. This brought training programmes to farmers and introduced IPM components and tactics through FFS in the field to manage FAW.Plans were to organize 22 FFS and more than 300 beneficiaries joined training sessions through September and October 2021. Additionally, the project conducted three training-of-trainers (ToT) sessions for FFS, for 107 extension workers in Jordan, Syria, and the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Before leaving the workshops, some  participants expressed their opinions. One said: “The workshop was an added value to our knowledge and experience; we learnt a lot and we became more organized in the FFS area.” Another added: “The training equipped us with the necessary skills and experience. It  has highlighted the area of weakness in our previous practices. We learnt new ideas such as agro-ecosystem analysis, special topics, group dynamics, and insect zoo.”

FAO working with partners on training, equipment

Thaer Yaseen, Regional Plant Protection Officer for NENA in the FAO Regional Office (RNE), has reported that eight countries in the region had reported FAW infestations and FAO’s response has been to provide more than 25 000 bucket traps and 80 000 pheromone lures, designed to cover 50 000 ha. As well, Yaseen suggested that FAO could provide scientific support to identify suspected FAW specimens, working in partnership with the Centre for Agriculture and Biosciences International (CABI); and training more than 700 specialists on FAW identification and monitoring.

In addition, training was provided to more than 250 biological control specialists on mass rearing of natural enemies, in partnership with the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (icipe). Support was provided for production facilities for FAW natural enemies at two laboratories in Yemen and Egypt.

Earlier this year, other regional training was provided on mass rearing and release of FAW natural enemies. Videos were produced on FAW-related topics, including artificial diet preparation and inoculation, rearing of FAW and rearing of parasitoid Telenomus remus. More than 500 specialists were trained in using the FAMEWS mobile app, and 10 training sessions were held for data validators.