Published Wednesday , on 11 April 2018, 13:39:50 by Christophe Hitayezu

In addition to the effort of the United Nations through its Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the United States of America announced to be committed to play a significant role in combating Fall Armyworm in Africa.

USAID, through the Feed the Future initiative, is leading the U.S. government’s efforts to combat Fall Armyworm with a broad coalition of partners, including the private sector, universities, donors, research institutions, and country governments.

In a telephonic media brief about efforts to combat the Fall armyworm in Africa on Tuesday 10, 2018, US Agency for International development (USAID) Fall Armyworm Task Force Coordinator Regina Eddy said the US continues to call upon other partners to mobilize their solutions to this invasive crop pest.

Ms. Eddy during a telephonic media brief on tuesday [Photo: U.S. Africa Regional Media Hub]

She reminded that the US had a decade of experience in controlling Fall armyworm, originally found in the Americas. "In the United States we have decades of experience controlling Fall Armyworm, so the challenge is transferring that knowledge to African counterparts and opening the path for dozens of technologies to be validated and then scaled. In doing this, we believe that the evidence must guide the selection of these technologies, and that the choice ultimately belongs to the end user; that’s African governments and their farmers" she said.

Talking about the uniqueness of this pest versus many others, Ms. Eddy said "Fall Armyworm is resistant to many conventional pesticides; it has a voracious appetite that particularly targets maize, which you all know is a vital staple crop for many families in Africa; and we continue to call upon our partners to mobilize their solutions, to work with us to control Fall Armyworm and support the capacity of African governments to manage the pest."

Reacting on right control management to be used that can’t harm the environment, she focused on integrated pest management framework, which the global community and Africans have supported, and which is using the right mix of technologies to reduce the adverse impact on the environment.

She said "One of the first beneficial approaches is to have the plant itself resist the attack. That’s possible with a GM - a genetically-modified - maize seed; the worm simply doesn’t attack it. I should mention, 85% of the commercial farmers in the U.S. and in Brazil use a GM seed. So right there you’ve protected the plant and you’re also protecting the environment".

"As for biological controls, there are some remedies and approaches; they need to be tested and then scaled. They could be living organisms that attack the eggs; some consume the worm itself. The worm can be handpicked by farmers; it’s labor-intensive but it’s possible. And then there are biological sprays; there is also Bt spray that’s safe. It’s used by organic farmers in the U.S. and has no consequences for the environment and it’s highly effective. And I mentioned, also, you get some control with landscape options, such as interplanting with beans.

So there’s a range of approaches. They can be combined, and many of these trials are being done in different African countries right now just to validate that the same control will take place. Once that data is there, then the communities should look to scale those options" She added.

Fall Armyworm is native to the tropical and subtropical regions of the Americas and has become established in many countries across Africa since it was first detected in early 2016.

Earlier in March, The Minister of Agriculture and Animal resources in Rwanda, Dr. Geraldine Mukeshimana said the government would continue exploring new response methods like the pheromone traps and efficient pesticides varieties to combat Fall Armyworm.

According to the agriculture ministry, pesticides approved to control the fall armyworm pests in Rwanda are cypermethrin, lambada-cyhalothrin, pyretthrum EWC, acetamiprid and imidacloprid.

Farmers are required to monitor their farms at least three times a week and pro-actively spray in case they detect the pests.

According to FAO, the campaign under a project titled "Support to the Government of Rwanda in sustainable control and management of Fall Armyworm", is expected to reach 1,200 households. It could also serve as an early warning system for the country for timely action in managing a pest invasion.

Figures from FAO Rwanda show the pest attacked 91.7 per cent of the maize and sorghum planted in Nyamagabe and 100 per cent of the area occupied by maize in Nyanza and Muhanga districts.

Armyworm’s life cycle [FAO, 2017]