Fall Armyworm: The number one enemy of farmers in West and Central Africa

Banana Bunchy Top Disease (BBTD) causes yield losses of 100% in severe cases and even leads to banana plantations being abandoned.

In a webinar hosted on Tuesday by the West and Central African Council for Agricultural Research and Development (CORAF), the most formidable of the emerging biological risks are the armyworm.

To manage these biohazards, there is a normal process which first involves the observation of the facts, the identification of the biological risk, early warning, awareness raising and control actions.

“In West and Central Africa, this approach has problems. The observation is often made but the identification is not spontaneous for most countries.

Early warning is not often done or when it is “is done, it is limited. We note the awareness but the control actions are not always immediate”, said Dr Rachidatou Sikirou, Phytopathologist researcher at the National Institute of Agronomic Research of Benin (INRAB).

“If the procedures are not normal to be able to quickly manage these biological risks in West and Central Africa, this is due to the insufficiency and the lack of skills for rapid identification.

“There is also the low availability. resources and support at the national level for the management of biological risks; the weak equipment and financial capacity of the structures in charge of surveillance.

“However, there are some efforts that are being noticed. introduction of the armyworm, each state has financed interventions with its own resources,” says Dr Rachidatou.

The main interventions to manage the scourge of biological risks relate to building the capacities of actors on emergency measures, awareness-raising and short-term control measures.

Monitoring of the pest in the field is necessary as well as the use of local methods to control crop enemies. These methods are based on the use of ash, sand, soapy water and the extract of local plants.

All experts from West and Central Africa must be supported by various technical and financial partners including the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the African Development Bank (AfDB) , ECOWAS, UEMOA, GIZ etc. in the management of armyworm.

Rachidatou added that “Synergy for a better fight.”

The support must especially include the collaboration of national action plans against biohazards. Funding of medium and short-term research projects in certain countries to develop sustainable technologies and approaches for armyworm management.

The scaling up of promising control methods, the creation of national committees on sanitary and phytosanitary measures. Efforts have also been made in terms of scientific research, especially with regard to the armyworm.

Biology and ecology were studied, the relationship between the insect and its auxiliaries, biological control based on the use of parasitoids and natural plant extracts.

On all of these biological risks, efforts have been made to find solutions that can eradicate this scourge. National plans for the control of fruit flies and white flies have been drawn up.

In order to better manage crises linked to biological risks, experts recommend a framework for consultation between researchers and producers for the expression of constraints, relevant innovation points, the consideration of producers’ know-how according to research standards, the joint involvement of international research institutions and universities in research and development projects.

Joint dissemination of research results by national and international organizations. The creation of development platforms with the help of development actors including NGOs, producers, national development and agricultural agencies.

The creation of a platform for the exchange of research articles between the countries of West and Central Africa. A partnership between national and international research institutions.

Pests, especially armyworms, represent a real obstacle for agricultural production in West and Central Africa.

It is urgent that all the players, experts and governments get more involved in solving this problem and thus further boost the agricultural sector in these areas.

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