Sierra Leone News: Fall armyworm attacks Salone crops

Fall armywormThe Ministry of Agriculture Forestry and Food Security (MAFFS) and the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) have confirmed the outbreak of the Fall Armyworm (FAW) in Sierra Leone.
It has now become clear that the pest is everywhere in the country and already causing serious damage to crops like maize. The scale of the damage is yet to be assessed across the country, explained MAFFS Pest Management Consultant, Dr. Ibrahim Sammy.
FAO consultant entomologist, Dr. Wilfred Hammond explained FAW is an invasive pest native to the Americas. Since the first official report of FAW presence in Sao Tome Principe and Nigeria in January 2016, the incidence of the pest is currently confirmed in about 30 countries in Africa.” However how it got to Africa we are not certain yet.”
He further added that FAW is capable of feeding on more than 80 plant species, including maize, rice sorghum, wheat, sugarcane, cowpeas, vegetables crops and cotton. “This is a pest that knows no boundaries in terms of its movement and what it uses for food.”
In maize, for instance the pest can attack at different stages of growth, from early vegetative to physiological maturity. The pest can also feed on developing kernels, an aspect that can reduce yields through direct losses, exposure of cobs to secondary infection and loss of grain quality.
Dr. Hammond also revealed that it is a “pest that has also develop resistance to many pesticides calls for a more collective and more sustainable solutions to the problem.” Also noting that since it could not be eradicated it should be managed.
Nonetheless, he noted that Sierra Leonean experts have done a marvelous job by already completed an action plan. “It shows how fast and serious everyone has taken this problem…”
FAO Agricultural Economist, David Annag explained that in Guinea, Conakry the pest is everywhere. Most farmers initially thought, “this was something that was passing” but after subsequent farming they realized that it refuses to go. This is why we need o do very quick awareness creation because if any farmer finds it and refuses to report it, his farm becomes an incubation ground
So far, the emergency measures taken by many countries have been to distribute and spray pesticides in the affected areas to contain the spread of the fall armyworm. But there needs to be sufficient information and clear recommended actions for farmers so that they can immediately reduce production losses. Related to these challenges are financial constraints.
FAO Rep, Nyabenji Titotipo, said, “This is a serious matter… Its presence in this country has not been confirmed until this week. The Ministry was very eager to get risk the assessment … the same FAO has done with other countries,” by our technical team.
“The pest has been reported by so many countries in Africa – it is a continental issue,” she said.
“It is a trans-boundary pest because it can travel miles and miles very fast.”
The Deputy Minister of MAFFS, Marie Jalloh, said, “This is a time we need to stand up and act fast. The consequences are it would destroy agricultural trends and it would result in hunger,” she explained.
However, the Minister noted that frontline workers have been trained; a rapid assessment was done, and an action plan has been developed.
By Ophaniel Gooding
Awoko Friday, November 10, 2017.

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