FAO in Uganda

FAO boosts Uganda Government’s efforts to fight Fall Armyworm: Donates equipment for monitoring, early warning, detection and response

Dr Charles Owach, Assistant FAO Representative in Uganda (R) hands over a trap, mobile phone and lures to the Commissioner for Crop Protection at the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries (L) in Mukono District.


Mukono – In a bid to respond to the Fall Armyworm (FAW) outbreaks and minimize the pest’s destruction of crops, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations working with the Government of Uganda through the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF), have rolled out the use of a mobile phone application – Fall Armyworm Monitoring and Early Warning System (FAMEWS), for FAW monitoring and early warning.

The equipment included 126 mobile phones loaded with the FAMEWS app will be used in 15 districts to pilot a community based FAW monitoring and early warning system. These districts include; Mukono, Iganga, Bulamburi, Nakapiripirit, Oyam, Adjumani, Kiryandong, Kibaale, Kasese, Lira, Kayunga, Soroti, Busia, Masindi and Luwero.
Other items handed over to MAAIF included 700 pheromone traps and 6000 lures facilitate detection of the presence and build-up of FAW and to capture adult moths.

The use of pheromone traps is instrumental in detecting the presence and build-up of FAW in areas where the traps are deployed. Pheromones are natural compounds emitted by female FAW moths to attract male moths for mating. Synthetic compounds that mimic natural FAW pheromones, often referred to as lures, are placed in traps to attract and trap male moths. Moths that are caught are then counted. The numbers are recorded on the mobile app and submitted to FAO central platform with countries having rights to access and validate. From the numbers caught, farmers can know if FAW is present in their fields or in their locality and determine the need for increased scouting.

This support comes as farmers are planning and preparing their gardens for the second planting season expected to start by the end of August 2018.

Speaking at the handover ceremony on 13 August 2018, at Mukono Zonal Agricultural Research and Development Institute (ZARDI) in Mukono District, the Assistant FAO Representative in charge of Programmes, Dr Charles Owach, emphasized the importance of setting up a community-based system for monitoring, early detection and the management of the devastating pest.
“The major action required for effective and sustainable management of FAW is at the community level. With the community monitoring system, farmers can make informed decisions for early action, that is, timely scouting of their fields and undertaking appropriate control actions,” he said.

Through the community monitoring system, extension workers at local, district and national level will be able to appropriately advise farmers on FAW control. The system also monitors the spread of FAW across geographical areas nationally and at continental level.

The FAMEWS mobile app has been rolled out in a number of countries but more in Sub-Saharan countries in Africa with notable success in Ghana, Tanzania, Kenya, Zambia, Malawi and others. It will be expanded to North Africa, the Near East, India and other parts of Asia where FAW is spreading.

The monitoring system will benefit communities dependent on maize for food and income. Early detection, and as a result, collecting and analysing information, is essential for tracking and efficiently responding to the large-scale threat posed by FAW.
Stephen Byantwale, the Commissioner for Crop Protection at MAAIF, received the equipment on behalf of Government. He noted that whereas Uganda realised a bumper maize harvest during the first season of 2018 (compared to 2017 where more than half of the maize crop was lost to the FAW), “there is need to continue monitoring because the residual populations of the FAW have the potential to cause more outbreaks”

“We are grateful to FAO for the items we will be deploying in communities as a pilot project. Based on the results, the government will explore opportunities to roll out this approach to other districts given that the data available so far indicates presence of FAW in all districts in Uganda,” said Mr Byantware.

He urged farmers to start scouting as they prepare to plant maize for the onset second season.
“Now that we know what the pest is, there is need for sustainable control and management mechanisms which are safer for both humans and the environment such as the use of natural biological control agents, mechanical destruction of egg masses and larvae among others. Pesticides should come as a very last resort” he said.

The use of biological mechanisms such wasps, nematodes, and some fungus that attack and destroy the caterpillars is being studied by the National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO). This move is aimed at minimising the use of pesticides in the management of FAW.

He stated that Uganda has a national strategy and action plan for control of FAW which has short, medium and long term measures and commended FAO for supporting the Government of Uganda to implement national its FAW control and management strategy through the technical cooperation project and sub-regional project on FAW.
About FAW.

Fall Armyworm (FAW) is an insect pest native to tropical and subtropical regions of the Americas. Since it was first reported in 2016, FAW has spread across sub-Saharan Africa, causing extensive and widespread damage, particularly to maize crops. By mid-2017, FAW was present in all of Uganda’s districts, causing between 15 and 75 percent yield loss. An estimated 450 000 metric tonnes of maize, equivalent to US$ 192 million was lost during the first cropping season of 2017, directly affecting 3.6 million people, or nine percent of the population.

About four million farmers in Uganda grow maize, producing four million metric tonnes annually. Maize is also one of the cheapest sources of calories in the country, making FAW a serious threat to both livelihoods and food security in Uganda.