Army Worm Stakeholders brainstorm on solutions to outbreak in West Africa

Koroma said that the first outbreak was recorded in the region early 2016 in Nigeria, Benin and Togo and spread quickly across the Continent.

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Invasive army worms threaten annual harvest in Volta Region play

Invasive army worms threaten annual harvest in Volta Region

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Stakeholders from 15 West Africa countries on Tuesday in Abuja brainstormed on solutions to the outbreak of armyworm in the sub region.

Mr Suffyan Koroma, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) Country Representative joined stakeholders at the Capacity Building Workshop for ECOWAS member states, to raise alarm about the spread of armyworm in West African countries.

Koroma said that the first outbreak was recorded in the region early 2016 in Nigeria, Benin and Togo and spread quickly across the Continent.

“To date, more than 32 countries including 10 of the 15 countries in the West African sub-region have reported the pests’ presence."

“This poses a real challenge to sustainable and profitable production of maize among smallholder farmers."

“To tackle the problem, governments are giving away pesticides to maize farmers,” he said.

According to him, armyworm is capable of feeding on more than 80 plant species, including maize, sorghum, rice, wheat, sugarcane, cowpea, vegetable crops and cotton.

“Unfortunately, this pest is not common in Africa. It is known to be part of America."

“We have learnt best practices from countries like Brazil and part of America that have been attacked."

“We are not focusing on eradication of the pest now but focusing on control. It is a perennial problem because when you eradicate this season next season it comes again."

“We want to build capacity on how farmers when they see it in their farm could control it. Eradication no, but management and control is our focus for now."

“There are states that are affected here and they will be part of our mitigation programme here in Nigeria,” he said.

The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, who declared the workshop open, said that the armyworm outbreak affected the country’s maize production.

Ogbeh said this had resulted in the importation of maize from other African countries to meet the country’s demand since the first case was reported two years ago.

He said that importation was not an option in an effort to achieve food sufficiency in the country, noting that measures should be put in place to curtail the disease.

He, however, appealed to FAO to standby to assist the country to proffer solution to manage and control the pest and further outbreak to non-affected states.

He also appealed to farmers to be reasonable in fixing the prices of food items in the market, expressing concern that so many Nigerians could not afford to buy food.

Mr Allan Hruska, FAO, Rome, said that the essence of the capacity building was to bring the best brain and experts to Africa to adopt the techniques that had been used by farmers in other countries.

Hruska, who said that the pest was not common in African countries but in the U. S. and Brazil, urged the affected West African countries to take advantage of the opportunity presented by the training.

He added that this message had to get to millions of farmers across the sub region on how to manage the pest when affected.

Mr Keith Cressman, the Head of Surveillance, FAO, said early warning on pest control was important, adding that if not heeded, the attacks  could cause colossal damage.

“The armyworm has affected many countries in Africa. So, we are moving from country to country on how to manage and control the pest.

“The programme that FAO is developing for armyworm is to initiate and develop tools that can be used by the farmers – that is to give information on what they see in the field to us.

“The information is important because if it is late, they will cause a lot of damage and that will affect food production for such countries,” he said.

NAN reports that they Minister of Agriculture and FAO Country Representative signed into operation the FAO Technical Cooperation Project to control and manage the infestation of the armyworm in Nigeria.

NAN also reports that the five-day capacity building brought together stakeholders from 15 West Africa countries which have reported the pests’ presence to find solution to the its outbreak.

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