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Experts Meet As Army Worm Spreads to South Sudan

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The army worm whose presence has already been felt in Uganda is a new pest in Africa, preferring maize plants, but feeds on sorghum, millet, vegetables and other crops as well.
19 Jul 2017 15:41
FAW feeding on a maize leaf, Zimbabwe.
Pest experts are meeting in Ghana for another round of deliberations as the marching fall army worm spreads to neighboring South Sudan.

The outbreak has been reported by the Government of South Sudan in the Equatoria region including Magwi, Yei and Juba, Northern Bahr el Gazal and parts of Jonglei area. The army worm whose presence has already been felt in Uganda is a new pest in Africa, preferring maize plants, but feeds on sorghum, millet, vegetables and other crops as well.

Serge Tissot, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) Representative in South Sudan says the infestation of the Fall Army-worm is putting an increasing number of people at risk of hunger.

"It is nearly impossible to eliminate this pest from South Sudan - now that it is here, it will stay. Following its initial detection in Magwi Country, it is spread to nearly all areas of the country at an alarming rate," Serge Tissot explains in a statement.

As at June 2017, more than 25 African countries including; Uganda had reported and confirmed the outbreak of the pest originally known to the Latin America.

FAO Assistant Director General and Regional Representative for Africa, Bukar Tijani said it was estimated that there were over 200 million people dependent on maize for food security in sub-Sahara Africa. He said the characteristics of the Fall Army worm have made it difficult to control the pest, given that the moth are strong flyers, and breed at a high rate.

Experts say it is hard to control the pest because their larvae feed on a wide range of host plants, like maize, sorghum, rice, wheat, sugarcane, cow peas among others.They are now attending a three-day meeting in Ghana in which they are expected to exchange practical experiences and best practices on how best to manage the fall army worm.

The meeting hosted by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has attracted experts from Africa and the Americas to deliberate on the outbreak of the fall army worm  infestation.

Bukar Tijani said it was important for experts to meet and share experiences and think of short, medium and long term plans to deal with the infestation of the fall army worm.

He said though the socio-economic context and production systems were quite different in the Americas, much of the basic information about the fall army worm biology, ecology, natural control and pesticide use was relevant to its management in Africa.

Hans Dreyer, the Director of the Plant Production and Protection Division of FAO said there is need to involve farmers in the deliberations and management of the pest.

"Farmers should be made to identify the pest themselves, and to manage the pest on their own with simple methods of putting sand, ash and earth into the cobs to destroy the eggs of the pest",Dreyer said.

Experts from Uganda, Mexico, North America, South Africa, Benin, Cameroon and Ghana are also expected to build knowledge and share information and collaborate in dealing and managing the worm.

This is the third time this year that FAO is bringing together experts to deliberate on the outbreak of fall army worm in Africa.

Meanwhile many of the countries in East Africa including Uganda have already started interventions by implementing their national action plans facilitated by FAO. Uganda, according to FAO, is among the countries that have so far managed to control fall army worm through regular monitoring, pesticide application, and hand picking of its larvae.

Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia and Rwanda have already prepared their action plans on FAW prevention and control while Burundi, Djibouti, Somalia, South Sudan are yet to do so.