In 2016 the fall armyworm, a major pest in the Americas, was found in Africa for the first time. Since then it has rapidly spread across much of sub-Saharan Africa. The caterpillar feeds on more than 80 different plants, but maize is its preferred host, the most widely grown crop in Africa and a staple for half the continent. In the context of Africa’s climate, the insect is now likely to build permanent and significant populations in West, Central and Southern Africa, and spread to other regions when temperatures are favourable, posing a major threat to food security.
CABI and AGRA are hosting a side event on fall armyworm at the African Green Revolution Forum 2017 in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire. If you are not attending the conference, you can watch the livesteam below on September 7 at 14:00 (UTC). The video will also be available after the event.
[Update 14:20]: Due to poor internet connectivity, we are unable to run the livestream. A video will be made available on this page after the event.
Al Jazeera correspondent Gelareh Darabi recently travelled to Nepal for the broadcaster’s Earthrise programme, to see how plant clinics in Pokhara are helping farmers deal with crop pests such as tuta absoluta.
CABI has opened a new Southern Africa office in Lusaka, Zambia, putting staff on the ground to strengthen its work in international development. The CABI-led Plantwise programme has been active in Zambia since 2013. Working closely with national agricultural advisory services, CABI and national partners establish and support sustainable networks of plant clinics, run by trained plant doctors, where farmers receive practical plant health advice to help them lose less and grow more. To date, Plantwise has helped establish 42 plant clinics and trained 77 plant doctors in Zambia, reaching thousands of the country’s farmers.
The CABI-led Plantwise programme this week won the OECD Development Assistance Committee’s Prize 2015 for innovation. The award recognises initiatives that take innovative approaches to international development, scaling up pilot projects and applying them more widely. Over the past five years, Plantwise has grown to reach over four million farmers in 34 countries, helping them to lose less and feed more. Plantwise was announced OECD DAC Prize winner at a ceremony at the OECD headquarters in Paris on 9 March.
The latest episode of the Tech4agri web series focuses on a number of farmers who attended Plantwise plant clinics in Trinidad and Tobago and received follow-up visits from Plantwise and NAMDEVCO extension workers.
As CABI’s Naitram Ramnanan explains: “We decided to follow up by visiting the farmer in the field and then realised that it was a pervasive problem in the christophene-growing areas of the country.” Plantwise is now working with a group of christophene [chayote] farmers around Brasso Seco to develop sustainable solutions to the pests and diseases affecting their crops.
Speaking to Climate Change TV at the recent COP21 Climate Conference, CABI’s Dr Janny Vos stressed the impact of climate change on agriculture, especially for the world’s 500 million smallholder farmers. She focused on the balance that must be found to help smallholders become climate smart farmers while, at the same time, being able to grow enough produce to support their livelihoods.
As temperatures increase, farmers face challenges from unfamiliar pests and diseases which can decrease yields and even destroy entire crops. Dr Vos discussed how Plantwise can use data from plant clinics in one country to provide diagnostic information and management recommendations to farmers in other countries, who may not be familiar with the threat.