FAO Raises the Alarm over Outbreak of Pest in Abia, Ekiti, Ondo, Oyo


Michael Olugbode in Maiduguri

The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, FAO, on Wednesday said an estimated 1.5 million households would be affected by the Fall Armyworm (FAW), a pest, across some states in Nigeria.

FAO, in its latest report, November 2018, lamented that the Fall Armyworm (FAW) has continued to negatively affect the food production and incomes of many families in the country, revealing that more than a million producer households across Nigeria, which resulted in more than US$268 million worth of losses in earnings in Abia, Ekiti, Ondo and Oyo States were recorded in November 2017.

The report stated that: “In July 2018, FAO mapped the impact of the FAW on livelihoods in six states in southern Nigeria, with the mapping of an additional six states in the northern region ongoing. However, significant questions about the impact of the FAW in the other 24 unmapped states of Nigeria remain.”

It lamented that: “FAO’s funding for FAW activities has been depleted – the Organisation is currently the sole financial source for its response in Nigeria. Though committed to saving the livelihoods of farmers and other agriculture sector stakeholders affected by FAW, FAO faces significant financial constraints to carry out monitoring, prevention and response activities.”

It explained that: “The Fall Armyworm (Spodoptera frugiperda) is a significant insect pest native to the tropical and sub-tropical regions of the Americas. It is a highly destructive plant-eating insect with a wide host range, attacking more than 80 plant species and causing massive economic loss. FAW prefers crops in the grass family, to which maize and rice belong. The pest was first observed in Nigeria in 2016 and, since then, has continued to ravage maize fields at an alarming rate.

“In Nigeria, maize is not only a major staple food crop at the national level and relevant to the food security and nutrition of nearly 200 million people, but also a key input for industry. As a result, attacks by the FAW have major implications for the food availability and industrial output in the country.”

It further revealed that: “The alarming rate of expansion and its presence in all parts of the country has made the Fall Armyworm a major concern for agriculture sector stakeholders. The sector is a key source of income for millions of Nigerians and, in some parts of the country, more than 80 per cent of households engage in an agriculture-based livelihood. Agriculture is also essential to national food security and nutrition, foreign exchange earnings, employment and revenue.”

The report said: In a rapid response to forestall the menace of the FAW pest on Nigeria’s national food security and livelihoods, FAO developed a Fall Armyworm project focusing on capacity building and integrated pest management. The project entitled, technical emergency assistance for the management and containment of Fall Armyworm affecting maize production in Nigeria was signed with the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD) in 2017.”

It said that: “FAW has numerous social and economic impacts in Nigeria, and if not managed, will contribute to rising food insecurity and worsen the livelihoods of producers and other stakeholders in agricultural value chains. While the pest has displayed a preference for maize in much of sub-Saharan Africa, due to its highly invasive, adaptable and aggressive nature, there is a likelihood of FAW infesting other crops of significant social and economic value such as millet, sorghum, cowpea and leafy vegetables. Fall Armyworm has already been reported on sorghum and cowpea in some parts of the country.”

FAO said: “If the infestation continues, the cost of maize and other crops affected by the pest will likely rise due to a confluence of factors including increased crop losses and the significant cost of insecticide application. Most farmers have responded to Fall Armyworm attacks by relying heavily on synthetic insecticides, neglecting infested farms and switching to other crops like cassava. This will invariably lead to the increased cost of maize production and scarcity of raw material (maize) for the agro-based industries that produce animal feed, breakfast cereals and other maize-based products.

“The decreased production will also result in reduced household income, driving more families into debt, poverty and food insecurity. Furthermore, the indiscriminate use of hazardous insecticides and exposure during spraying in FAW response, bear significant risks for the environment and the health of humans and animals, particularly within producer households.”

It said also said: “Several countries have already declared a national emergency on FAW in order to mobilise action around combating this pest. In Nigeria, like much of the world, FAO has been on the frontlines of the FAW response and is setting up a national taskforce to combat the FAW and update stakeholders on the situation.”

It however lamented that: “Due to significant funding gaps, FAO is working in 12 out of the 36 states of Nigeria. However, given the highly migratory nature of the pest and its current and potential future impact on agricultural livelihoods, FAO urgently requires greater funding to upscale its support to vulnerable producer households infested by the Fall Armyworm.”

It revealed that: “To undertake a comprehensive response in Nigeria, FAO is seeking US$ 3 million to upscale FAW mitigation and elimination through direct response and capacity development of local actors. To date, FAO’s FAW response has totalled US$ 461 000.”