Arusha. Twelve African countries, including Tanzania, may lose maize yields valued at between $2.48 billion and $6.1 billion within the next five years due to the devastating fall armyworm (FAW).
The invasive pest has already wreacked havoc on maize production in various parts of the continent, especially in East Africa, threatening food security to millions.“If no appropriate action is taken, the army worm could cause from 21 to 53 per cent of maize yield losses in 12 African countries within five years,” the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) said yesterday.
The losses of maize harvests due the the pest attacks, it is feared, would significantly affect African countries which are already importing food worth more than $35 billion.
The food import bill for the same countries is expected to reach more than $100 billion by 2026, the Ibadan-based institute said in a statement availed to The Citizen.
The menace reduced maize yields in Kenya by 20 per cent last year. The situation is equally worrying in Tanzania’s northern regions where experts warn the pest could wipe out 80 per cent of the yields.
FAW or ‘Spodoptera Frugiperda’ is believed to have been brought into the country from West Africa, notably Nigeria and Benin, and was first detected in Tanzania in March, last year.
The voracious pest can wipe out crop fields in a short span of time, especially maize, sorghum, wheat and other cereals, thereby impacting on the country’s food security. IITA in collaboration with the African Development Bank (AfDB) currently are spearheading a harmonised, multi-stakeholder regional approach to controlling its spread.
A plan of action to contain the pest has just been launched by the two institutions with nine countries in eastern Africa and the Indian Ocean island states being the focal points.
Launching the plan in Lusaka over the weekend, AfDB regional manager for eastern Africa Joseph Coompson said FAW was a highly damaging pest that threatened food security, considering that maize was a staple food across the continent.
“We are looking forward to leaving this meeting with effective low-cost technology options,” he said, noting that governments and the private sector needed to work together to combat it. According to him, one of the options available for scaling up will be the Syngenta Foundation’s seed treatment pesticide known as ‘Fortenza Dou’ considered effective against the pest.