Communication strategies to support the fight against fall armyworm – Cabo Verde


Recognizing the key role communication strategies play in fighting the dreaded fall armyworm, the West and Central African Council for Agricultural Research and Development (CORAF) invited ICRISAT to conduct sessions at a workshop on Integrated Pest Management at Praia, Cape Verde. Over 30 plant protection specialists and the Agriculture Minister of Cape Verde participated.

“Fall Armyworm is a great challenge to food security and farmers’ livelihoods because it affects crops that are the economic and cultural basis of family farming in Cape Verde. Fall armyworm can affect up to 60% of agricultural production on a continent that needs to produce much more, to feed its population,” said Mr Gilberto Silva, Minister of Agriculture and Environment of Cape Verde at the inaugural session.

The ICRISAT team comprised Dr Laouali Karimoune, Entomologist, ICRISAT-Niger and Ms Agathe Diama, a communication expert, trainer of stakeholders and Head, Regional Information, West and Central Africa. The sessions facilitated by ICRISAT dealt with introducing a ‘Communications Framework’ for fall armyworm (FAW) and integrated pest management. The topics covered included – Moving research from the lab to the field through communication; Communication with intermediaries supporting farmers (government policymakers, input dealers and extension services); and Communication approaches to raising awareness on biohazard management strategies and FAW. The sessions focused on planning processes and levels, use of an iterative approach, content development and updation, selection of tools, Monitoring Evaluation and Learning and gender integration.

The theoretical sessions were followed by group exercises by plant protection specialists from different countries. Participants were divided into three large groups to develop an integrated communication framework to fight FAW and other emerging risks. The groups were divided based on language (French and English) and region. The exercises were followed by a plenary feedback session. Participants are expected to conduct similar communications sessions for their colleagues in their respective organizations to facilitate better communication on the issues, challenges and solutions available to fight FAW in West and Central Africa.

The FAW is an invasive insect pest native to the tropical and subtropical regions of the Americas that has invaded and rapidly spread to sub-Saharan Africa, infesting millions of hectares of smallholder maize, millet and sorghum fields. It can cause significant yield losses if not properly managed or in the absence of natural biological control. Sustainable management strategies coupled communication strategies that are part of broader pest management plans in the FAW-affected countries are important to ensure that the dissemination of information to stakeholders, especially farmers and policy makers, is as relevant, as scientific and as harmonized as possible .

As a regional institution and the technical arm of Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) for agriculture, CORAF is involved in activities related to the management of emerging risks in agricultural production, including the management of the FAW. This workshop was organized by CORAF, through the USAID-funded PAIRED project and the EU-funded BIORISKS project.

The workshop held from 13-17 June was led by CORAF staff Dr Hippolyte Haffognon, PAIRED Program Manager, and Dr Ousmane Ndoye, Bio risks Project Coordinator. Dr Ângela Maria Pereira Barreto da Veiga Moreno, President of the CORAF Governing Board attended the inaugural and valedictory sessions.

The FAW is an invasive insect pest native to the tropical and subtropical regions of the Americas that has invaded and rapidly spread to sub-Saharan Africa, infesting millions of hectares of smallholder maize, millet and sorghum fields. It was first detected in Central and West Africa in early 2016. Today, it is affecting almost every country in sub-Saharan Africa. It can cause significant yield losses if not properly managed or in the absence of natural biological control.

Sustainable management of the FAW requires a multi-stakeholder approach including cereal producers as the main beneficiaries. Farmers, especially the millions of small-scale producers, need an enabling environment of policies, guidance, tools, resources, management options, communication, and awareness to sustainably manage the FAW, said the workshop managers.

Sustainable management of the FAW and other emerging biohazards regional collaboration, including for sharing information and experiences as well as for implementing coordinated actions on monitoring and requires management of the pest among West and Central African countries.

In addition, they said, coordinated communication efforts with key agricultural decision makers, development partners, and agricultural advisory services are a priority to prepare farmers for the adverse effects of invasive species such as the FAW. Because of the speed at which this pest can colonize new areas and affect farmers’ fields, systems must be put in place to help stakeholders manage invasions, while providing farmers and other agricultural stakeholders with appropriate and affordable integrated pest management (IPM) options that are both easy to understand and implement. At the same time, it is crucial that these efforts emphasize the use of well-designed communication strategies and methods that take into account target audiences, as it is unlikely that the same type and level of technical information will be needed by different stakeholder groups. Therefore, the design of communications for policymakers, the private sector, and farmers must be distinct, well-planned, and focused.

For this reason, CORAF and partners are working to strengthen the FAW management capacities of agricultural actors in West and Central Africa and their ability to communicate and raise awareness. Sustainable management strategies coupled communication strategies that are part of broader pest management plans in the FAW-affected countries are important to ensure that the dissemination of information to stakeholders, especially farmers and policy makers, is as relevant, as scientific and as harmonized as possible . The efforts of the sub-regional organization are being focused on developing effective communication channels to get research results from the laboratories to the producers.

The workshop took place from June 13 to 17 under the leadership of Dr Hippolyte Affonon (PAIRED Program Manager, CORAF) and Dr Ousmane Ndoye (Bio risks Project Coordinator, CORAF).

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