FAO needs more funds to tackle armyworm in Africa

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) says it requires more funds to tackle the spread of armyworm in Africa.
The African armyworm (Spodoptera exempta), also called nutgrass armyworm, is a moth capable of destroying entire crops in a matter of weeks.
The larvae feed on all types of grasses, early stages of cereal crops like corn, rice, wheat, millet, sorghum, sugarcane and occasionally on coconut.
A statement, issued, in Abuja, by David Tsokar, National Communication Officer of FAO, said Jose Graziano da Silva, Director-General of the organisation, said this at the organisation’s Regional Conference for Africa.
Graziano da Silva said the organisation had raised $13 million to fight the disease and had contributed $10 million from its budget.
According to him, Africa is particularly affected and vulnerable to climate change, which is contributing to increasing outbreak of pests and diseases.
‘‘Fall armyworm, which was first reported on the continent in 2016, has now spread rapidly to almost all Sub-Saharan countries, being a case in point.
‘‘FAO has been on the front line in responding to the fall armyworm threat and recently launched a step-by-step guide for farmers on how to deal with this trans-boundary pest but we need much more,’’ he said.
The director-general said the organisation had developed a mobile application known as FAMEWS that would allow farmers to detect, monitor and track the spread of ‘Fall Armyworm’ directly in their fields.
He said that FAMEWS had been used in Madagascar, South Africa and Zambia and would be deployed to other African countries by the end of February.
Graziano da’ Silva said that African countries needed to promote a rural and structural transformation that would foster synergies between farm and non-farm activities, reinforce the linkages between rural areas and cities.
He suggested that the linkages should include processing, packaging, transportation, distribution, marketing and service provision, especially financial and business services.
‘‘Agriculture will continue to generate employment in Africa over the coming decades, but opportunities should be explored beyond agriculture throughout the food chain.
‘‘This will help to create enough jobs for young people, especially those in rural areas.
‘‘Estimates suggest that up to 12 million new jobs will have to be created every year to absorb new labour market entrants over the next 20 years.
‘‘Today, 54 per cent of Africa’s work force relies on the agricultural sector for livelihoods, income and employment, especially in family farming.
‘‘With more people moving to cities, demand on urban food markets will grow, which in turn can generate job opportunities in agriculture-related activities.
‘‘But FAO believes that more must be done to create non-agricultural employment in rural areas, including agro-tourism and other services,’’ he said.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) recalls that FAO had developed a five-year project to control the spread of the disease, which has spread across more than 26 states in the country.

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