By Duncan Mboyah

Scientists have urged African countries to upscale Integrated Pest Management (IPM) in Fall armyworms (FAW).

Dr. Subramanian Sevgan, Principal Scientist at the International Centre for Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE) says that FAW is still a big problem in Africa where it ravages crops, exposing populations to hunger every year.

“It is time to apply technology to effectively manage FAW to avoid excessive damage of maize that is a staple food in the continent,” Dr. Sevgan said during the 2023 progress monitoring meeting on integrated management of FAW for sustainable food security in Africa in Nairobi.

Dr. Sevgan noted that IPM offers a more sustainable, cost-effective, and environmentally friendly approach to FAW control than the use of fertilizer, chemical pesticides and mechanization.

He said that it is time that farmers are empowered to stop mono-cropping maize and instead begin to intercrop it with legumes as a measure to the management of the spread of FAW in the continent.

The scientist added that FAW has remained a problem in the continent because its migration is facilitated by wind.

He said that ICIPE has embarked on scaling the use of push and pull technology, one of the lead IPM technologies in the management of FAW to southern African countries after putting strategies in place in the eastern African region.

Dr. Sevgan revealed that researchers have reached 1,225,582 farmers while 254,971 farmers have adopted the technology.

Dr. Felister Makini, Deputy Director General in charge of crops at Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Organization (KALRO) noted that incorporating a range of strategies and focusing on long-term prevention helps in the reduction of pest populations.

Makini said that IPM minimizes the negative impact of pesticides while effectively managing FAW and other pests.

She added that maize production in Kenya had been on a continuous expansion trajectory since the 1960s until 2017 when the FAW invaded the major maize-growing regions of the country.

Makini observed that invasive pests have presented a significant agricultural challenge in many regions, especially in Africa, where it has wrought considerable devastation upon maize production.

The scientist noted that the economic repercussions of FAW is leading to substantial losses in agricultural productivity, heightened production costs due to the necessity of pesticides and other control measures, and frequently resulting in food shortages and elevated prices for maize and other affected crops.

She observed that since the outbreak in Kenya, the country has grappled with achieving self-sufficiency in maize production.

The outbreak, she added, has resulted in a surge in maize imports from within the eastern African region and afar.

Makini noted that the surge has exerted pressure on the resilience of Kenya’s food systems, posing a threat to food security, while the limited supply of maize grain in the market has given rise to higher prices, rendering it unaffordable for numerous households.

She revealed that a survey conducted by scientists in Kenya in 2020 showed that most farmers had to apply up to five sprays in a season to control FAW, and still, they recorded over 50 percent yield losses.