…USAID advocates the use of technology and GMO to fight attack
The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is asking African governments to use technology and genetically modified seeds (GMOs) to manage the fall armyworms invasion that has destroyed almost half of farmlands on the continent.
This follows a report by the agency which has revealed that the epidemic that has already plagued 28 African countries, and is suspected in nine others, can only be managed and not eradicated completely.
In Ghana, the invasion began in 2016 where 4,000 hectares of crop fields were destroyed.
Currently, over 14, 000 farms have been completely destroyed with over 112,000 farmlands infected according to the Peasant Farmers Association of Ghana, PFAG.
Government last year distributed some chemicals to farmers for onward spraying of the farms as a way of controlling the pest.
Although government announced earlier last year after the application of the chemicals that the invasion was under control, there are reports that the attack has resurfaced in the Ashanti Region.
The PFAG and other stakeholders in the agricultural sector have been mounting pressure on government to declare a state of emergency and find more effective ways to deal with the problem.
According to the USAID, “the management framework that governments can adopt is to use the right technology. The best beneficial approach is to have the plant itself resist the attack with the use of the genetically modified seeds. 85 percent of commercial farmers in the USA use GM seeds, so you protect the plant and the environment as well.
We believe the pest is in Africa to stay. It’s going to be a constant,” said Regina Eddy, the Policy and Engagement Coordinator, Fall Armyworms Taskforce at the USAID, during a teleconference.”
The fall armyworms feed on over 80 different crops including maize, rice, sorghum and sugarcane.
According to the Center for Agriculture and Bioscience International (CABI), the pests could cause losses of 8.3 million to 20.6 million metric tons of maize annually, a volume which could feed some 40.8 million to 101 million people in Africa.
The USAID fears the attack is a major threat to food security on the continent.
“The ability of the pest to consume crops means it will threaten food security, it will threaten livelihood and our ability to reduce poverty and threaten important food sources that will nourish the future generation,” Eddy noted.
Meanwhile the USAID has given assurances that it will support African countries to manage the situation.
“We are working through our Feed the Future programme to help government’s protect livelihoods and manage the pest as quickly and efficiently as possible as they can. It is important to protect food security within the region and communities. So it’s on everyone’s radar,” Eddy assured.
The fall armyworms are pests that feed on crops to survive. After completely destroying the crop, the pests move to the next available food source.
By Nana Oye Ankrah