By Aja Musu Bah-Daffeh
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture, the Plant Protection Service through the Gambia government, organized a day’s stakeholder workshop on Fall Armyworm (FAW), on Tuesday 20th June 2017, at the Kairaba Beach Hotel.
The forum was funded by FAO and is aimed at raising awareness on FAW and helped kick start strategies to effectively respond to the looming threat posed by the ravaging FAW, already devastating crops in several countries in Central, Eastern, Western and Southern Africa.
Speaking at the forum, Perpetua Katepa Kalala, FAO Representative in the Gambia, said that Fall Armyworms were first detected in Central and Western Africa in early 2016, mainly in Sao Tome and Principe, Nigeria, Benin and Togo.
“By late 2016 to 2017 it had spread to Angola, Botswana, Burundi, Cote d’lvoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe, and it is expected to spread further,” She said
Madam Kalala revealed that the pest is native to tropical and subtropical regions of the Americas, noting that the adult moth is able to move over 100 km per night and over 2,000 km during its life cycle. She said FAW lays its eggs on plants, from which a larva hatches and begins to feed on plant tissue.
Although it is too early to know the long-term impact of the Fall Armyworm on agricultural production and food security in Africa, Madam Kalala said indications show that it has the potential to cause serious damage to crops, cause significant yield losses and threaten national household food and nutrition security.
The FAO representative noted that FAW’s presence in Africa is not likely to be reversed thus large-scale eradication efforts are neither appropriate nor feasible. Thus a solution will be based on Agro-eco system and innovative technologies.
“The FAO is committed to helping member countries, farmer organizations, and individual farmers to sustainably manage the FAW, as well as provide information to all stakeholders, so that the FAW does not lead to catastrophic results on food security,” She added.
The Minister of Agriculture, Mr. Omar A. Jallow, said FAW is yet to be in the Gambia but creeping closer to the country. The Minister however said that the Gambia can be saved from the ravaging pest.
He affirmed that FAW causes serious damage to agriculture, and therefore rapid measures should be taken to prevent it’s spread. “Plants need pest protection to improve food security and livelihoods, through sustainable integrated pest management,” he said.
In conclusion, the Agric. Minister promised that the Gambia government will closely partner with FAO to fight, prevent and eliminate the pest from Africa and that can be done by employing preventive measures from the Americas.