Expert Warns on Increasing Threats to Food Security and Livelihoods

A consultant to the World Bank, Prof Abel Ogunwale, has called for increased monitoring to prevent farmers from losing their fortunes this year to pests and invasive species.

Speaking with The Nation, Ogunwale urged for efforts on alien plants in order to build an early warning system.

With the increasing impact of climate change, he said farmers faced emerging threats and require the most urgent pest risk analysis to implement preventive measures and to perform eradication and management measures.

According to him, the agricultural sector confronted the attack of fall armyworm that affected maize, urging for more efforts to build the capacity of farmers and agriculture departments to address the issue of invasive species and to raise awareness among communities for better management practices.

He highlighted the potential for classical biological control of the Fall armyworm.

Ogunwale called for measures to keep plant pests and diseases at bay and trade in plants safe as well as efforts to prevent them from crossing borders and spreading.

Food and Agriculture Organisation(FAO) estimated that annually between 20 to 40 per cent of global crop production are lost to pests. Each year, plant diseases cost the global economy around $220 billion and invasive insects around US$70 billion.

In response to the rapid increase in the pest’s numbers, FAO launched a Global Action for Fall Armyworm Control to ensure a strong coordinated approach at country, regional and global levels.

At the same time, FAO’s partnerships with several research institutions, including the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (Nigeria), the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (Kenya) and the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (Brazil) helped to advance efforts to develop sustainable control techniques in different regions where the pest had appeared.

FAO also worked with universities to develop tools and training which would help those dealing with the problem first hand.

In 2019-2020, according to FAO, around 20 million people in Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda faced acute food insecurity due to swarms of the desert locust (Schistocerca gregaria).

In Kenya, the outbreak represented the worst locust crisis in 70 years; by its peak, the country was tackling over 500 swarms in 28 of Kenya’s 47 counties.

Some swarms were the size of Luxembourg. The desert locust has a voracious appetite and is arguably the most destructive agricultural pest, globally.

A 1 km2-sized swarm of 40 million desert locust could eat the same amount of food in one day as about 35,000 people. Locusts and grasshoppers regularly decimate crops in many parts of Africa and Asia with locusts, in particular, responsible for invading in swarms of millions, leaving behind ravaged fields and putting livelihoods and food security at severe risk.

Source: The Nation (Daniel Essiet)

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