The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) recently completed a two day training workshop for 40 extension officers of the Ministry of Agriculture choosen across the country on how to sustainably manage “Fall Army Worms (FAW).
The workshop was held at the Central Agriculture Research Institute (CARI) in Suakoko, Bong County.
FAW is a voracious feeder with a host range, and can survive on more than 80 plant species; capable of causing economic damage to varieties of cultivated species of cereals and vegetables. High infestations can lead to significant crop yield loss.
Although it is too early to know the long-term impact of FAW on agricultural production, productivity and food security in Liberia and Africa at large, as an aggressive transboundary/migratory pest, it has the potential to cause serious economic damage to food crops of Liberia.
The overarching objective of the exercise in Liberia is to build the capacity of stakeholders on the identification, impact and management strategies of the pests; assist the government develop a national action plan as well as advise the government on sustainable management of FAW.
FAO Consultant (and former representative to Liberia), Dr. Winfred Hammond is currently visiting three West African Countries; (Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea) to identify the FAW and provide technical guidance that will effectively help governments control the pest.
Dr. Hammond informed participants that the best practice to control the pest is to put in place a periodic surveillance/ monitoring system.
“This training is intended for attendees/participants to identify the pest and at the same time help farmers to understand the danger associated with the pest”, he said.
He further lamented that the pest is causing many farmers in neighboring Sierra Leone and Guinea to abandon their fields; he further stressed that the pest attacks varieties of crops (such as cereals, rice, maize, sorghon etc..) and vegetables (tomatoes, watermelon garden eggs/bitter balls).
He noted that controlling the pest needs the involvement of everybody, “Everybody needs to understand FAW, its behavior, and how it develops; this will allow the farmer to start early control.
Dr. Hammond also added that the ultimate goal of the training is to build the capacity of extension workers that they can raise the awareness among farmers on the impact of the pest. “FAO stands prepared to assist the Ministry of Agriculture to educate farmers on the danger of the pest.”
Roland Varkpeh, Regional Agriculture Coordinator for Bong, Lofa and Nimba Counties welcome the efforts of FAO to educate farmers in the country on the danger of the FAW. He stressed the importance of reaching out to the community and education smallholder farmers on how to control the pest.
He called upon participants to take whatever knowledge acquired to reach out to farmers within their assigned areas and spread the message for early control.
FAO also undertook series of quick actions such as the development and sharing with countries of a technical guide for FAW identification, protocols to assess levels of infestation and damage, and recommendations for management options including support to governments in the development of actions plans.