Dar es Salaam — The United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has entered into two agreements worth $2million with the Ministry of Agriculture Livestock and Fisheries to boost surveillance of Fall Armyworm (FAW) across the country.
A fall armyworm outbreak has been causing considerable crop damage in some countries including in Tanzania. The pest damages maize which is a staple food in most areas of Tanzania and the Southern Africa region as a whole. It also affects other cereals including sorghum, millet and wheat, forcing countries in the region to spend millions of dollars in preventive measures.
After more than a year of wreaking havoc across western and southern Africa, fall armyworms started to be reported Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Ethiopia and Burundi early this year and yesterday, (Wednesday September 27), the government signed a Climate Smart Agriculture agreement which is worth $500,000. The agreement is supported by United States Department of Agriculture.
It also signed the Value Chain Development for Rice in Iringa region agreement worth $1.5million under the support of the European Union.
During the event, FAO handed over fall pheromone traps to the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries to be used for the surveillance of fall armyworm (FAW) infestation in the country.
The 216 traps would also be used to determine the gravity of the problem and provide information necessary for designing future interventions.
Speaking during the handover event in Dar es Salaam, the FAO Country Representative, Fred Kafeero, said that the traps were part of the efforts by UN agency in addressing the FAW threat in parts of the country. "Fall armyworm, which is mostly associated with the Americas, is a new threat in Southern Africa and we are very concerned with the emergence, intensity and spread of the pest," said Mr Kafeero.
"It is only a matter of time before most of the region is affected, and the costs and implications for food security and livelihoods could be very serious," he added.
For his part, the MALF Permanent Secretary, Mr Mathew Mtigumwe said the support by FAO had come at the right time when there are reports of invasion of the pests in some parts of the country.
"Although it is too early to know the long-term impact of fall armyworm on agricultural production and food security in the country, its potential to cause serious damage and yield losses is very alarming. These traps will help us determine the extent of the problem and provide information necessary for designing interventions," he said.
The fall armyworm impact on crops and infestations has been identified in several regions both in uni-modal rainfall areas such as Songwe, Katavi, Mbeya, Iringa, Njombe, Ruvuma, Lindi, Mtwara, Morogoro and Rukwa regions; and in bi-modal rainfall areas such as Arusha, Manyara, Shinyanga and Kilimanjaro Tanga.
Mr Mtigumwe said that Tanzania is working with other stakeholders including FAO to gather and analyze experiences and best practices that will help to design and test a sustainable FAW management program for smallholders in the country.
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Endemic to the Americas, fall armyworms can fly long distances, and females can lay up to 1,000 eggs at a time, according to scientists. They proliferate in tropical climates, making Africa a choice destination; however, experts are still unclear as to how the pests got here in the first place. According to FAO, as of January last year (2016), army worms had spread to Nigeria and Ghana before hitting South Africa, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Zambia, Namibia and Mozambique before descending on East African nations this year.