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Communication, information sharing, and advisory services to raise awareness

The following comes from an opinion paper published by Stefan Toepfer et al published 17th December 2018 

This is an opinion paper to the perspective paper “The spread of the Fall Army Worm Spodoptera frugiperda in Africa—what should be done next?” from the “Section Plant Protection in the Tropics and Subtropics” at the 61st German Congress of Plant Protection, held at the University of Hohenheim, Germany, on 11 September 2018. It highlights the best approaches in communication, information sharing, and advisory services to raise awareness for fall armyworm detection and area-wide management by farmers.

The pest problem

Alien species can cause serious problems to agricultural production because specific natural enemies often lack when they arrive in new ecosystems. Farmers and their families are among the most affected.

Farmers as well as local agricultural extension workers rarely know about the presence of newly arrived and spreading species until disastrous damage occurs. This scenario has also been observed for the fall armyworm invasion in Africa (FAW, Lepidoptera: Spodoptera frugiperda). FAW caterpillars insatiably feed on maize but can survive on many other crops (Silva et al. 2017). Maize losses have been estimated at 2½ to 6 million US$ in Africa in 2017 (Day et al. 2017). FAW has potential to cause losses from 8 to 20 million tonnes of maize every year in the absence of effective control methods (for 12 biggest maize-producing countries in Africa). This represents 21 to 53% of the annual maize production.

The awareness problem

The FAW is difficult for farmers to distinguish from other caterpillar pests, such as African armyworm (Spodoptera exempta), Beet armyworm (Spodoptera exigua), African cotton leafworm (Spodoptera littoralis), Helicoverpa species, or stalk (stem) borers such as Busseolaand Chilo species (CABI 2017). The recent arrival of the Southern armyworm (Spodoptera eridania) may add to the confusion (Lopez 2018). Therefore, FAW may initially remain unrecognised aiding its population build-up. To mitigate this, dissemination of information on early warning and management practices to key stakeholders including farmers is essential. However, agricultural extension services may be limited in achieving quick and large-scale outreach.

The role of agricultural mass extension

CABI, working with in-country partners, utilises mass communication, information sharing, and agricultural extension services to aid detection and management of FAW at farm level.

Unlike face-to-face approaches such as farmer field schools, plant clinics, or extension worker field visits, mass communication enables broader and swifter outreach to farmers, often at a lower cost (Table 1)`

 

Table 1: Approaches of agricultural extension and their influence on raising awareness on invasive species and other major plant health problems (* low towards ***** high)

Plant health rallies are one example of a mass extension approach. Rallies are series of larger community meetings (often 100–200 people) informing many farmers in a short period of time about an agricultural topic of widespread concern (Boa et al. 2016), here the identification and management of FAW. They are pre-advertised through local radio or village announcements. Such plant health rallies are successful in a number of countries (e.g. Uganda, Kenya), but success may depend on local cultural aspects or legislative constraints. They are usually governmental campaigns (national or local) or NGO actions; some countries involve the army or large community actions (e.g. Rwanda).

Media-based mass extension approaches can include farmer-focussed television or radio programming (e.g. Zambia, Kenya), dissemination of printed materials such as posters (e.g. Uganda, Ghana, Kenya, Ethiopia, Madagascar, Mozambique), sharing of information via mobile platforms using SMS or Interactive Voice Response (IVR) technologies (e.g. Uganda, Kenya) or social media (e.g. WhatsApp/Telegram groups, e.g. Zambia, Malawi, Uganda), and specific apps (e.g. Plantwise Factsheet App).

 

The role of advisory services

Ideally, all agricultural extension workers should be trained in FAW detection and management by trained in-country trainers, given the scale and potential impact of the pest. In countries where a large network of governmental frontline extension workers exists (e.g. Tanzania), this approach may be effective; but in others this may not be possible. The Plantwise program has enhanced access by farmers to extension services in relation to pest and disease identification and management through facilitation of plant clinics (Cameron et al. 2016; Romney et al. 2013). Other approaches with local impact might be community mobilisation such as through farmer groups, women groups, or village-based video shows (e.g. Uganda).

Over time, farmers will learn through their own experiences with the new pest. Although learning through experience takes times and impact is not reached soon, in combination with access to good information on evidence-based, effective and practical pest management techniques, this may have the most lasting impact at reducing the problem of FAW and at stabilising yields.

References

Abrahams P, Bateman M, Beale T, Clottey V, Cock M, Colmenarez Y, Comiani N, Day R, Godwin J, Gomez J, Gonzalez Moreno P, Witt A (2017) Fall armyworm: impacts and implications for Africa. Evidence note (2). CABI, Wallingford, UKGoogle Scholar

Boa E, Papania P, Mulema J, Franzel S (2016) Extension campaigns. Note 24. GFRAS Good Practice Notes for Extension and Advisory Services. GFRAS, Lausanne, SwitzerlandGoogle Scholar

CABI (2017) How to identify fall armyworm. Plantwise. CABI, p 4. www.plantwise.org/fallarmyworm. Accessed May 2018

CABI (2018) Fall armyworm portal. https://www.cabi.org/ISC/fallarmyworm. Accessed November 2018

Cameron KH, Somachandra KP, Curry CN, Jenner WH, Hobbs SLA (2016) Delivering actionable plant health knowledge to smallholder farmers through the plantwise program. J Agric Inf 17:212–229Google Scholar

Day R, Abrahams P, Bateman M, Beale T, Clottey V, Cock M, Early R, Godwin J, Gomez J, Witt A (2017) Fall armyworm: impacts and implications for Africa. Outlooks Pest Manag 28:196–201CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Lopez K (2018) New pest identified in West and Central Africa! In New of IITA. IITA, BeninGoogle Scholar

Romney D, Day R, Faheem M, Finegold C, Negussie E (2013) Plantwise: putting innovation systems principles into practice. Agric Dev 18:27–31Google Scholar

Silva DMd, Bueno AdF, Andrade K, Stecca CdS, Neves PMOJ, Oliveira MCNd (2017) Biology and nutrition of Spodoptera frugiperda (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae) fed on different food sources. Sci Agric 74:18–31CrossRefGoogle Scholar

The role of information sharing

All the above needs to be supported by open-access information sources, and many are available on FAW (comprehensive list in Abrahams et al. 2017). Official reporting services include the IPPC official pest reports (www.ippc.int/countries/all/pestreport), EPPO reporting service and Pest Alerts (www.eppo.int/PUBLICATIONS/reporting/reporting_service.htm), as well as national sources. Help on FAW field diagnosis may come, among others, from the CABI invasives twitter feed, USDA-APHIS PestLens (https://pestlens.info/), IITA News (www.iita.org/iita-news), PestNet Listserv (www.pestnet.org), Plantwise WhatsApp/Telegram groups, and identification guides on the Plantwise knowledge bank (www.plantwise.org/knowledgebank). Monitoring and pest management advice can be found on the Lancaster University Armyworm Network (/www.lancaster.ac.uk/armyworm/), CIMMYT MaizeDoctor (http://maizedoctor.org/), the Plantwise knowledge bank, Plantwise Factsheets Library app, and again from Plantwise WhatsApp/Telegram groups. Comprehensive locally adapted and practical pest management advice is usually compiled in pest management decision guides (also called green and yellow lists) following IOBC and Plantwise standards (e.g. www.plantwise.org/knowledgebank). To facilitate access to all of the available information in one place, CABI developed a “FAW information portal” through CABI’s open-access Invasive Species Compendium (CABI 2018www.cabi.org/isc/fallarmyworm). It supports sharing of information resources from many key players in the fall armyworm response.

There is also the FAO FAW portal that was launched in December 2018. This includes the daily updated map of FAW occurrence from the  FAMEWS app. In addition, there is the community editing function on PlantVillage such as the Remote Sensing Page, Pesticide Page IPM Page and the general page on FAW All of which can be edited by you.