Insect invasion adds to strains on Africa’s food crisis

In addition to the climate change-related drought that has left millions of Africans on the brink of starvation, the invasion of the fall armyworm further threatens the continent’s food security, incomes and livelihoods.

The disease, first reported in Africa in 2016, is estimated to cause yield losses of $9.4 billion in Africa, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization. The fall armyworm feeds on the leaves, stalks and reproductive parts of corn and 80 other plant species on cereals and vegetables.

In Kenya, farmers in the west of the country have warned of the invasion of devastating pests as the planting season progresses. “There is an invasion of fall armyworms in the maize fields and we are taking the first steps to sensitize farmers on the need to report them to our extension officers immediately,” Reuben Seroney, the county director of agriculture in Uasin Gishu, told the News Agency of Kenya last week. .

“We have also received various chemicals from the Ministry of Agriculture as a mitigation measure to prevent further attacks.”

Seroney said the worms have affected nearly 5,000 hectares of crops, mostly corn.

In Trans-Nzoia County, County Agriculture Officer Mary Nzomo told farmers to get pesticides from county offices.

Fall armyworms have also been reported in more than 47 districts of Uganda, where they have severely damaged crops. Pests have also invaded neighboring Tanzania.

In a statement on Friday, FAO Director-General Qu Dongyu said only six African countries had reported the plague since 2016. But to date it has spread to 78 countries in Africa, the Middle East, Asia and the Pacific.

“The autumn armyworm knows no bounds and continues its rapid march around the world,” Qu said.

The FAO said the spread of fall armyworm is driving increased use of pesticides, putting human and environmental health at risk.

As part of the response measures, the FAO said maize hybrids with tolerance to armyworm are now available at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center for testing and release in African countries.

FAO has also tested integrated pest management in eight geo-areas with good results.

The measures are already bearing fruit, with fall armyworm yield losses in Burkina Faso reduced to 5 percent or less since 2020.

Additionally, biopesticides and biological controls have shown 90 percent effectiveness in the field against the pest.

However, the FAO warns that the plague continues to spread, exposing new farmers and their livelihoods.

Despite the achievements, FAO notes that the adoption of integrated pest management and the reduction of yield loss differ from country to country, and as the use of hazardous pesticides persists.

Leave a Comment