Fall Armyworm and maize post-harvest losses: Bane to food security in Ghana

According to Abraham Maslow’s theory of needs, the basic necessity of life is to satisfy one’s hunger first. However, our relentless effort to satisfy this theory are been defeated by the forces of post-harvest losses of food stuffs especially maize and insect pests. Worldwide, it is estimated that 50-60% grains are lost to post-harvest losses, a percentage which can daily fill the digestive tracts of over 870 million consumers. In Ghana, post-harvest losses of maize is now one of our greatest enemy and now a force to reckon with even though it has no ballistic missiles. This situation has forced most Ghanaians to become refugees on their own backyards as they trek in search of unavailable greener pastures.

Unfortunately, this situation has been has devastating with the arrival of fall armyworm (FAW) (Spodoptera frugiperda) on the African continent in 2016. FAW attacks over 80 different plants species with huge damages. Biologically, it undergoes four cycles: egg, larvae, pupae and moth and completes 6 instars after pupating. The moth lays over 2000 eggs in its life time and flies over 100 km per night. However, huge dollars have been invested in their management with no sign of relief. Ironically, despite it multiple citizenship, it has being awarded a Ghanaian citizenship and it’s now regarded as a friendly insect pest and also entitled to the privileges of other insects without any identification.

However, all hope to feed the present and the future generation is not lost as a trained “plant doctor” and an upcoming entomologist with plans, I run a plant clinic sessions for farmers to diagnose plants diseases and pests. Also, I prescribe practical and effective measures coupled with the use of Super Grain Bag for both the management of FAW and maize post-harvest losses. SGB is a type of grain storage bag which stores maize and other legumes without the need for any chemical preservatives.

As the world population hits 9 billion, the demand to satisfy the basic needs of consumers are threatened by huge maize post-harvest losses and destructive hungry caterpillars of FAW. In Africa, the situation is urgent with these constraints in the sense that maize is our only food security crop which has saved over 200 million consumers. The marriage between FAW and maize post-harvest losses calls for urgent efforts for their management. FAW arrived in Ghana without any visa. However, with a microscopic eyes, I detected their presence in my community during my usual home and farm visits. Sensing the danger ahead, I impregnated the idea to work on FAW to contribute to food security.

Present Project Steps: As a postgraduate student studying Master of Science of Agriculture, I have presented a proposal: “Host preference of fall armyworm to 4 maize varieties” to one of the seasoned entomologist on the planet.  The 2 way-factorial project will be conducted in the glass of the School of Environmental and Rural Science (ERS) to find out the host preference of FAW to 4 maize varieties. The steps are:

  1. Insect colony establishment.
  2. Raising of maize seedlings.
  3. Host preference assessment.
  4. Larvae damage assessments.

The project is realistic as it will be sustained by my earlier project on storing dried grains using SGBs. A technology which the rural poor consumer and farmer can have access to save enough grains to satisfy the stomach demands of their dependents as food security is threatened by other factors.

Beneficiaries:My past project has already helped to satisfy both the demands of humans and livestock with quality grains without any running stomachs and devoid of being detained at hospitals. The environment has also been a beneficiary as the use of synthetic chemicals will be reduced and save the lives of consumers, farmers and the countless micro and macro organisms in the virgin soils to contribute to soil security.

Stakeholders? Yes, both past and present projects have reliable stakeholders. A few of these stakeholders include: Ag-biotech, Plantwise, Centre for Agriculture and Biosciences International (CABI), Ministry of Food and Agriculture and other international institutions preaching food security to its billion congregants.

Projects Tried and Tested:In 2016, I tried and tested the SGB through the engagement of 21 communities. In all 388 farmers have testified with countless others when I embarked on agricultural radio programs weekly. The story is not different with my present project when I set up a pheromone trap to monitor the moth movement with support from USAID – Advance and CABI in Ghana and submitted timely reports.

Outcomes:Aside from my past project improving poor livelihoods, it is stacked in the minds of seasoned CABI experts. For instance, in 2017, I was among two other plant doctors in Africa to be awarded Samsung Tablets by CABI/Plantwise, an honour which cannot be erased in the history of Ghana. Moreover, my project was awarded the Most Significant Change in Africa by the Australia Awards in Africa. My present project although is in the pipeline is on the lips of entomologist working on similar projects.

Outcome Measurement:The outcome of my past project was measured when i carried out a detailed monitoring and evaluation on the beneficiaries in all the 23 communities. Further details is on this link: https://www.australiaawardsafrica.org/alumni/. Farmers who attained refugee status in their own country have reversed to wed the fertile soils with success stories. Interestingly, farmers who cropped handkerchiefs size farms have expanded into hectares. Although, my present project is yet take off, my timely advice to famers have assisted them to manage the treats of FAW with improved livelihoods

My motivation: My motivation to embark on these projects is from the former Secretary of States of the United States of America – Hilary Clinton who once said “Food security is the issue of our time”. My gains are to see my community, country and myself contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) especially 1, 2 which are to end poverty and reduce hunger in all forms.

Bartholomew Sey, Ghana

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