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FAO Launches Project to Protect Staple Food Crops from African Armyworm

Photo Courtesy: Food and Agriculture Organization

15 June 2023, Naivasha, Kenya– In a bid to combat the African Armyworm and safeguard staple food crops in eastern Africa, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has initiated the “Emergency Support to Manage Outbreaks and Infestation by African Armyworm in Eastern Africa” project. This project aims to provide support to six countries in the region, focusing on monitoring, early warning, and effective management techniques.

The Threat of African Armyworm

The African Armyworm, a transboundary insect pest, emerges during rainy seasons following periods of drought, posing a significant threat to vital cereal crops. These crops, including maize, millet, sorghum, rice, wheat, teff, barley, sugarcane seedlings, and pasture grasses, are crucial for food security in the region. Infestations can result in extensive agricultural losses, ranging from 9% to 100% in affected plants.

Project Scope and Beneficiaries

To address the issue, the project targets Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, and Uganda. It establishes 2400 monitoring sites across the region and provides training to over 1350 individuals, including experts from National Plant Protection Units within the Ministries of Agriculture. The project aims to enhance knowledge transfer and training programs for national experts and community focal persons.

Utilizing the Community-Based Armyworm Monitoring and Forecasting (CBAMF) System

A key focus of the project is the utilization of the Community-Based Armyworm Monitoring and Forecasting (CBAMF) system, which has demonstrated promising results in Tanzania, Ethiopia, and Kenya. This system will bolster monitoring efforts in high-risk villages, enabling early detection and effective management of the African Armyworm.

Regional Collaboration for Effective Pest Management

Highlighting the importance of regional collaborative efforts, H.E. Kello Harsama, Principal Secretary State Department for Crop Development at the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development of Kenya, emphasizes the need to address the African Armyworm collectively. This call for collaboration stems from Kenya’s recent experience with the devastating Desert Locust invasion, underscoring the importance of joint action against agricultural pests.

Urgent Intervention to Ensure Food Security

With the African Armyworm capable of reproducing up to 13 generations in a single year, Xia Jingyuan, Director of the Plant Production and Protection Division (NSP) at FAO, emphasizes the urgent intervention required to prevent significant crop losses. The pest poses a severe threat to food security in the subregion, adding further pressure to the already strained agricultural sector due to prolonged drought.

Call for Collaborative Efforts

Carla Mucavi, FAO’s Representative in Kenya, stresses the need for collaborative efforts among governments and partners to combat the African Armyworm effectively. Preventing significant crop losses and protecting the livelihoods of smallholder farmers necessitate joint action and increased resource allocation.

Project Launch and Knowledge Sharing

The project launch provides a valuable platform for stakeholders to understand the project’s objectives, deliverables, and the roles of key participants. Through comprehensive training programs covering various aspects of the African Armyworm, such as its biology, ecology, monitoring, early warning systems, management techniques, and reporting using FAO’s Fall Armyworm Monitoring and Early Warning System (FAMEWS), participating countries have the opportunity to share their existing practices. Field visits offer attendees firsthand experiences of the pest’s life cycle, density levels, extent of damage, and demonstrate monitoring and spraying equipment.

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