The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations on Thursday 12th October 2017, provided technical assistance to the Ministry of Agriculture amounting to 4.2 Million Dalasi.
This technical assistance will be utilized to finance the project on the surveillance and rapid intervention for the management of Fall Armyworms that has been spotted in the Gambia, in the month of June 2017.
During the signing ceremony, the FAO Country Representative, Dr Perpetua Katepa Kalala, asserted that the pest is native to tropical and subtropical regions of the Americas and that the adult moth has an ability to travel long distances.
She said, it lays its eggs on plants, from which a larva (caterpillar) hatches and begins to feed on plant tissues; that high infestations of this pest, can lead to significant yield losses as currently experienced in Ghana, Kenya and Southern Africa. The FAO rep. noted that when they were alerted by farmers in The Gambia during an FAO field mission in June 2017, NARI and Plant Protection Services were encouraged to conduct a field mission to assess the situation and collect specimens of the insect pest causing damage to maize plants in the West Coast Region of The Gambia; that the Specimens of the insect pest causing damage to maize plants was collected and sent to IITA for molecular analysis and the pest was identified as the Fall Armyworm.
Dr Kalala noted that the extent of spread in The Gambia and the potential level of threat to crop production during this cropping season are unknown but that it is prudent at this time to quickly put in place a surveillance system and a rapid deployment mechanism, to assist farmers avert the threat posed by the Fall Armyworm.
Continuing her statement, Dr. Kalala indicated that FAO supports the Ministry of Agriculture to establish a National Fall Armyworm Taskforce (FAWT), that will advise the Ministry and spearhead sensitization campaigns; provide resources to MoA to do a rapid assessment of the pest situation and create an early warning system to assist farmers manage and control the pest.
She noted that the Fall Armyworm (FAW) is a threat to household food and nutrition security and that currently, no effective control measure is available; that by the time the pest is detected, the damage has already been done and infested fields suffer 80 to 100% crop loss.
Dr. Kalala said the objective of the TCPF are:
-To strengthen the National Task Force on FAW;
-Develop and put in place specific surveillance system for the Fall Armyworm and conduct monitoring in affected areas;
-To launch a rapid campaign of FAW management at district level;
-Train National Experts on the assessment tools and management options;
-Train farmers and extension agents on Fall Armyworm identification and management in the worst affected areas through Integrated Pest Management systems (IPM) and
-Conduct rapid assessment to understand the extent of the pest and the potential crop losses.
"I wish to reassure you of FAO's commitment to continue to provide our support in the area of plant pest and disease control, as well as all interventions that assist the Government of The Gambia and her people to attain household and national food and nutrition security, eradicate poverty and attain their development goals to sustainably improve the lives of people in The Gambia."
In his statement, the Minister of Agriculture Omar Amadou Jallow, indicated that the surveillance conducted by Plant Protection Services at the Department of agriculture and the National Agriculture Research Institute, revealed the presence of Fall Armyworms in all the fields visited by their extensions staff particularly in the West Coast and North Bank regions.
"Mr. Chairman, Pests and the damages they cause are an important deterrent in Agriculture and needs to be effectively managed to avoid massive crop losses which FAW is capable of causing, if concrete preventive actions are not undertaken," he stated.
Mr. Jallow said developing countries are in the process of intensifying their agriculture needs to meet national demands for food and to increase agricultural exports; that new crops have begun to replace traditional crops either as potential export commodities or as substitutes for imports. He pointed out that such intensification could lead to increased pest problems and reliance on external inputs. "You may all agree with me, that pesticides are an important weapon in the fight against pests, especially during invasions. We have witnessed the 1988 and 2006 locust invasions. During those invasions, cereals, vegetables and fruit trees were attacked," he said. Mr. OJ Jallow said FAO and their dear donor partners, gave their full support and averted the huge crop losses the migrant pest could have done.
He pointed out that the Government of the new democracy has Agricultural Development high on its agenda and is committed to the attainment of food self-sufficiency as enshrined in the millennium development goals.
"We are cognizant of the threat to food security by pests and we will do everything possible to strengthen plant protection," he concluded.