The Southern African Development Community (SADC) in collaboration with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) organised a meeting for Member States (MS) and stakeholders to discuss the state of preparedness to combat the fall armyworm (FAW) in the coming agricultural season.
Thirteen (13) MSs and other stakeholders such as CABI, CARDESA, ICIPE, CIMMYT, ICRISAT, IITA, University of Zimbabwe, World Vision and SACAU were represented.
It was clear from the discussion that the FAW caught most of the stakeholders unprepared in the last season. Considering that the FAW attacks mostly maize which is an “emotive crop” in the region, some countries panicked in the face of the outbreak. Farmers also resorted to massive and unprecedented use of different types of pesticides, some of which were not safe for humans and the environment.
The region now has an early warning system that will enable MSs to effectively identify, monitor and asses the risks associated with FAW and deliver a regional based integrated and timely early warning. Capacity development support is being provided by various stakeholders to national governments and institutions as well as at regional level to plan for data
collection and analyse the impact of FAW at household, national and regional levels. Government plant protection and extension staff from the entire region have been trained on FAW response and its management. The FAO Sub-regional Office for Southern Africa noted that the capacities of Southern African countries, communities and key stakeholders to implement prevention and mitigation and good agricultural practices through Integrated Production and Pest Management to reduce impact of FAW and guide the use of pesticides have generally improved.
Most farmers and other stakeholders are becoming more aware on the FAW threat. Action and contingency plans have been developed, and communication products about the threat disseminated through various channels. FAO and other stakeholders will continue to support training of trainers and farmers and awareness raising in order not to lose the momentum already gained.
Some countries such as Namibia, Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe have finalised assessing the impact of the FAW. However, quantified data on affected hectarage and production losses was limited due to inadequate appropriate assessment tools, coupled with other factors. To this end, FAO provided countries with a standardised methodology for impact assessment, and facilitated the development of a common framework for the region to address the impact as a block since the FAW does not respect regional boundaries.