FAO hosts fall armyworm workshop in Kenya

Native to the Americas, FAW has spread rapidly across parts of Africa since about mid-2016, and poses a serious threat to food security in affected areas.

According to FAOSA , the meeting’s objectives included: reviewing the current status of FAW infestation in southern Africa; agreeing on a harmonised system to monitor FAW and assess its impacts; reviewing and adopting standard protocols for FAW assessments; sharing country-specific experiences of FAW infestation and management efforts, to develop a framework for monitoring and managing FAW at regional and country levels; and identifying opportunities for collaboration to sustainably manage FAW in southern Africa.

Dr Peter Chinwada, an entomologist at the University of Zimbabwe, said that stakeholders had to understand the biology, ecology, host plant spectrum, and exotic origins of FAW to manage the pest.

He highlighted the need to concurrently control other crop pests, without promoting FAW’s resistance to current effective pesticides.

Chinwada pointed out that cash-strapped and poorly equipped farmers were particularly vulnerable without the pest control resources wealthier farmers could afford.

When looking at more cost-effective solutions, farmers at the meeting noted some of the pest’s ecological weaknesses.

These include natural predators, susceptibility to certain chemicals, and intolerance for heavy rains and low temperatures, particularly during the FAW’s early larval development stages. This knowledge could help poorer farmers control the pest.

FAOSA’s umbrella body, FAO, has also prioritised assistance to tackling FAW in southern Africa.