As the rainy season dawn in all parts of the country, planting of maize has begun in earnest, especially in the Northern part of the country where majority of the produce is cultivated.
However, the presence of the invasive trans-boundary pest the Fall Armyworm (FAW) noticed for the first time in Nigeria in 2016, continues to be a great threat to the nation’s food security.
The looming danger of the possibility of the pest extending its host range to other important crops such as millet, sorghum, cowpea, vegetables is very high and therefore calls for urgent attention.
In a concerted effort to curtail and manage the noxious pest and its effect on crops, the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD) are training more than one hundred farmers in Northern Nigeria on management and control of the invasive pest.
The three days training was carried out in Kaduna state with participants drawn from other parts of the region. A similar training was held for farmers in Northcentral (Abuja) and southwest (Akure) regions among others. The programme is done as a training of Trainers, as that the trained farmers are expected to further take down the training to farmers in their respective communities.
As part of the immediate intervention to prevent farmers from sustaining drastic yield losses during this 2018 cropping season, and to restore productive capacity, FAO has provided to farmers, early maturing maize seed variety, herbicides, fertilizer, PPE materials, knapsack sprayer and Goldmax Total Crop Solution (insecticide).
Furthermore, as part of FAO’s effort, 120 extension workers and 50 researchers from the project target states (Oyo, Osun, Ondo, Ekiti, Kwara, Abia, Borno, Kaduna, Katsina, Kano, Jigawa and FCT) were trained on FAW biology, identification, damage symptoms, integrated pest management techniques, which includes, cultural practices, biological and chemical control, other topics covered include pesticide and pesticide risk reduction. Good Agricultural Practice (GAP).
The FAO Country Representative Suffyan Koroma said the inputs given to the farmers are short-term measures to enable them meet up with the 2018 planting season.
More importantly, he said, “FAO has also initiated the process of establishing a National Task Force to advice Government of Nigeria on FAW infestation. Engage partners, communicate with relevant stakeholders on the menace of the pest and promote cooperation, coordination, consistency and synergies across the country on its infestation and intervention. Membership of the Task Force will include amongst others, Research Institutions, private sector, relevant MDAs, NGOs, and Development Partners etc.”
Koroma reiterated that FAO will not relent in her effort to fight the war against fall armyworm in order to achieve the aim of attaining zero hunger and improving the livelihood of farmers and people of Nigeria.
According to the official of the FMARD, who is also the National Program Coordinator Dr Mufutau Adeleke, though most of the farmers are yet to fully realise it, the pest is in every state of the federation. But the extent of its damage on crops, especially maize cannot be quantified at the moment, because the damage caused by the pest so far is much.