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FAO to train 500,000 African farmers to manage Fall Armyworm

The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has announced to start a campaign to train more than 500,000 farmers to manage Fall Armyworm through farmer field schools in Sub-Saharan Africa

As Fall Armyworm is spreading to larger areas within countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, it poses crucial threats to crops, particularly sorghum, millet and maize. FAO warned that the pest could cause significant harm to Northern Africa, Southern Europe and Near East.

“Fall Armyworm could leave 300mn people hungry in sub-Saharan Africa, having already infested maize and sorghum fields across 44 countries in an area of more than 22mn sq km- the combined area of the European Union, Australia and the United States,” said Bukar Tijani, assistant director-general and regional representative of FAO for Africa, on the sidelines of a resource partners' meeting in Rome.

FAO has invested more than US$9mn from its regular budget, and mobilised US$12mn for its Fall Armyworm programmes.

"Despite significant contributions from resource partners and governments, there is still a significant financial gap. While we commend contributions made by a wide range of resource partners, including from those African countries affected by the pest, there is a need to urgently fill a critical gap of US$23mn to allow FAO effectively support countries in addressing Fall Armyworm challenges in 2018," Tijani said.

The pest first appeared in West Africa in 2016. Till now, it has spread across sub-Saharan Africa, leaving only 10 countries which are not infested.

"We have developed tools and put measures into place to tackle Fall Armyworm from training farmers and extension workers on how to apply local remedies such as collecting Fall Armyworm larvae killed by naturally occurring pathogens, making a mixture of these pathogens and applying them on the infested crops to kill the pest, to equipping them with mobile apps so they can recognise their new foe faster, and get immediate advice on how to manage it," he added.

At the meeting, resource partners highlighted FAO's coordination role in tackling Fall Armyworm, and expressed support for FAO's integrated pest management (IPM) approach, which means managing Fall Armyworm in an effective and economically sustainable way.

FAO has launched a five-year, US$87mn Fall Armyworm programme in October 2017, which is supported by Belgium, Ireland, Japan and the US.