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Agric Ministry combat ready for Fall Armyworm invasion

Aug 8, 2017, 12:23 PM | Article By: Fatou B. Cham

A Training of Trainers (ToT) for crop experts of the Ministry of Agriculture ended on Friday in the West Coast Region.

The training that brought staff of the department of agriculture from all the agricultural regions of the country, was designed for the identification of the Fall Armyworm and surveillance techniques to determine the spread of the pest in The Gambia.

The trainees were also introduced to integrated pest management options in the combat against the Fall Armyworm.

It would be recalled that a month ago a sensitisation workshop on the threat of Fall Armyworm was organised by the Ministry of Agriculture with support from FAO.

The Fall Armyworm is an insect, more precisely, a caterpillar that destroys maize crops. It consumes the plant leaves, bores holes into the stem and destroys the maize cob.

The Fall Armyworm was first detected in Central and Western Africa in early 2016 (Sao Tome and Principle, Nigeria, Benin and Togo) and in late 2016 and early 2017, it has spread to many countries in Africa including South Africa, Kenya, Niger, Ghana, and Sierra Leone, and it is expected to spread further.

 In June 2016, specimen of an insect pest which looks like the Fall Armyworm and was causing damage to maize plants in the West Coast Region was collected by the National Agriculture Research Institute (NARI) and sent to the international institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA) in Ibadan, Nigeria for molecular analysis to determine if in fact Fall Armyworm has been sighted in The Gambia.

The Fall Armyworm(spodoptera frugiperda) is a voracious insect pest that feeds on more than 80 crop species causing damage to economically important cultivated cereals such as maize, rice, sorghum, and also legumes and vegetables.

 It originated from the Tropical and sub-tropical regions of Americas.

 In Brazil, where the pest is endemic, it has been estimated to cost US$600 million a year to control the pest.

It is unknown how exactly this pest got to Africa, but it has become a major threat to the continent’s food and nutrition security, and agriculture trade.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) took the leadership in helping member countries, farmer organizations, and individual farmers to sustainably manage the pest.

FAO has taken immediate actions to support The Gambia in responding to the threat of the Fall Armyworm by supporting the Ministry of Agriculture to conduct a sensitisation and awareness raising workshop on the Fall Armyworm.

Karamo Minteh, Regional Director for URR elaborated on the importance of the training and assured that the information gained from the training would be put into practice on the field.

“Farmers are our partners and therefore the practice of dialogue will be necessary when communicating with the farmers,” he added.

For his part, Mustapha Ceesay, FAO Agronomist, said the present situation is a very critical situation in The Gambia, adding that it was the responsibility of FAO to sensitize the people, especially the farmers.

Assanatou Ceesay, a representative of NARI, said the issue of the Fall Armyworm is a threat to food security in The Gambia and to the world at large.

She further elaborated on the importance of farming and urged the participants to take every bit of knowledge they gain from the training seriously and share it with the communities they represent.