Editorial: Double trouble as FAW threatens food security amidst COVID-19

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It is as if the COVID-19 pandemic which is ravaging the globe is not bad enough, and farmers are feverishly preparing their fields to catch the rains in good time.

Fall armyworm (FAW) infestations were first reported in the country in 2016 with maize as a preferred host. Subsequently, the following year (2017), government responded to the attack with approval and release of about GH¢16 million for its management.

Again, the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA) is urging farmers to be vigilant as the crop-eating worms have started destroying farms in parts of the country, even as the country is tackling the global pandemic COVID-19 on all fronts.

Surveillance reports from MoFA indicate pockets of fall armyworm (FAW) on maize planted in lowland and irrigated fields in districts in some parts of Ahafo, Ashanti, Bono, Bono East, Central, Eastern, Greater Accra and Western regions.

The warning from MoFA is suggestive that FAW is now an endemic pest in the country and poses a serious threat to food security, and the livelihood of thousands of smallholder maize farmers around the country. The pest can wreak havoc on crops if left to multiply.

Fall Armyworm, according to research, feeds on more than 80 plant species, including maize, sorghum, peanut, soybean, millet, rice, vegetable crops, among others and hence its risk to food security in the country.

In 2018, fall armyworms invaded over 300 farms in 20 communities in the Garu and Tempane Districts of the Upper East Region and the development wreaked havoc on maize farms, affecting rice, groundnuts and sorghum farms as well.

It is estimated that the country lost about US$64 million through the fall armyworm infestation the same year.

MoFA’s Plant Protection and Regulatory Services Directorate (PPRSD) is therefore impressing on maize farmers in particular, to monitor their fields frequently for early detection of signs and symptoms of FAW infestation, and implement the necessary management options at the vulnerable stages of the larvae.

COVID-19 is already taking a toll on the economy with the various restrictions in place and there are fears that the health crisis could translate into a food crisis; hence our deep concern about the resurgence of the fall armyworm in parts of the country.

The PPRSD must be on standby to ensure its officials are equipped to respond to any distress call in any part of the country so that the country’s food security is not compromised.

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