Strengthening awareness and knowledge transfer for sustainable management of Fall Armyworms on the Copperbelt province of Zambia

Fall Armyworm (FAW) is a highly destructive invasive pest with the potential to continuously marginalize the growth of the agriculture sector in Zambia. FAW mainly affects cereal crops including maize, which is Zambia’s staple food crop. Since 2016, Zambia has recorded widespread incidences of FAW including Chililabombwe, the district where l am currently working as a Plant Health Inspector (PHI).

So far, more than 55,000 farmers representing a combined total of over 172,000 hectares of cropland have been affected in Zambia (Mulenga 2018). In addition, the Disaster Management Unit under the office of the Vice President reported a 33% decline in maize yield during the 2017/2018 farming season associated with FAW outbreaks in the country. Such devastating crop and economic losses put the livelihoods and incomes of more than 60% of the population that depend on the agriculture sector in Zambia at risk, more so the rural-based farmers (WB 2017).

Efforts to control FAW have been limited. The major control measure for FAW is routine chemical applications (Malathion, Rogor, Cypermethrin). The Zambian government and various organizations are investing millions of dollars to purchase synthetic pesticides. However, from my experience as a PHI, the effectiveness of this control option is challenged by several issues such as; failure by a lot of farmers to correctly use the recommended chemicals, limited access and the high cost of pesticides including pesticide resistance. Many human, animal and environmental health issues are also linked with the overuse of these chemicals.

In addition, the current high ratio of one Agricultural Camp Officer to 900 farmers coupled with high illiteracy levels (44.7%), more especially in female-headed households has contributed to the poor awareness of FAW, consequently increasing the spread and severity of the pest. This situation is worsened by inadequate early warning systems, information asymmetry and the over-dependence on government support for the supply of chemicals to control FAW.

With the above background, my project idea is on building the capacity of farmers to sustainably control FAW through enhancing awareness campaigns and knowledge transfer. I am confident that a well-informed farmer and community with well-supported extension services will improve early detection, planning, monitoring and use of best-fit management practices. This will undergird actions in mitigation of the risks associated with FAW invasion in cropping systems. I believe that proper reintegration of the acquired knowledge and skills in integrated pest management (IPM) can safeguard the ecosystem and reduce the spread of FAW.

The project will be conducted on the Copperbelt, the epicenter of FAW in Zambia, and extend to all districts currently affected in the province. As an early career researcher on the ground, I have identified the knowledge gaps and seen the need to scale up efforts to effectively control FAW. Therefore, the overall aim of this project is to build the capacity of farmers to sustainably manage FAW to enhance household food and nutrition security. The two main specific objectives are to (i) conduct awareness campaigns on FAW, and (ii) transfer knowledge and upskill farmers on the best-fit IPM options.

To achieve these objectives, the following activities that are targeted at farmers and the surrounding communities on the Copperbelt are planned; Production of FAW factsheets and dissemination of information via radio programs, awareness campaign rallies, sensitization meetings, and workshops. Production of FAW management brochures and guides for farmers. Development of the FAW information webpage, the establishment of demonstration plots and plant health clinics. In addition, the establishment of on-farm farmer field schools, farmer to farmer exchange visits and lead-farmer training are also planned to be conducted. Public education will be enhanced through community participation initiatives such as school debates, essay writing competitions, art, culture, and dances. These activities will be executed over a five-year work plan in collaboration with the following key stakeholders; farmers, agro-dealers, agricultural extension services, research institutions, public schools, radio and television stations, printing media and the office of the District Commissioner in each district.

With proper implementation and adequate resources, the expected outcomes of this project will contribute to; increased awareness on FAW and adoption of IPM strategies, reduced resurgence, and spread of FAW, improved crop production, and productivity including the enhanced export market for maize seed. In turn, this will lead to improved income, poverty alleviation, reduced hunger and malnutrition for the benefit of smallholders and the entire community in the province.

My strong motivation to conduct this project is derived from the vital role agriculture plays to improve livelihoods on the Copperbelt where mining is the main economic activity. I believe with the support of the N-GAGE seed grant coupled with exceptional mentorship from experienced crop protection researchers and cooperating partners, I will be able to effectively help farmers from encountering unnecessary yield losses due to FAW attack and make farming a viable business, more especially for women and the youths. It will also give me an opportunity to create an enabling environment that brings together all key stakeholders to take control of FAW as a shared responsibility in the province. With the above reasons, it will be a great privilege for me to be part of the IUPAC International Congress and Next Generation Agri Summit, where I can appropriately share experiences with fellow young scientists and learn from renowned researchers in agriculture on crop protection issues. Furthermore, I look forward to creating professional networks that will last a lifetime as we put together efforts towards sustainability.

Mulenga, D, 2018, Fall armyworm infests 55,000 hectares of crops in Zambia, viewed 07 February 2019, https://www.africanfarming.com/fall-armyworm-infests-55-000-hectares-crops-zambia/.

World Bank 2017, Climate-Smart Agriculture: Solutions to Reducing Poverty and Food Insecurity in Zambia, viewed 03 March 2018, http://www.worldbank.org/en/news/feature/2017/06/29/climate-smart-agriculture-solutions-to-reducing-poverty-and-food-insecurity-in-zambia

Justina Chivanga, Zambia

209 comments

  1. this is a very nice project and it will help us famers a lot from these fall army worms
    these FAW have reduced crop production in our country, a lot of us farmers will be glad to have the solution to this
    thid is so nice

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  2. This is a wonderful project and educative indeed. As Zambia is diversifying in Agriculture sector to enhance self sustainable development we need leaders like you who are a art in this sector. #Inspirational.

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  3. I have gone through the document and l support this project idea by Justina. Actually, l am one of the victims of the FAW attack. Therefore, successful implementation of this project will help not only me but a lot of farmers who are suffering from ignorance of this pest on the Copperbelt and the country at large.

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  4. This is a nice research idea. Fall army worm has seriously affected maize production which has consequently reduced the amount of maize produce for human consumption, livestock and fish feed formulation. Therefore, this project will greatly contribute to diversification in the agriculture sector in terms of crops, fish and livestock.

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  5. Army worms are really an infestation of economic importance. Not only the crop sector suffer the effects, livestock sector also suffers similar effects as a reduction in crop productivity can lead to high prices in the stock feed….It’s such a good project and it needs support so that the key person(farmer) can be sensitised about the vice.

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  6. This project is important because if we farmers becomes aware of the fall army worms , it will be easier for us to come up with the solution so that we can help our nation with high production of maize , but if us farmers we are not aware of this then its be impossible to over come fall army worms and therefore our country may remain in poverty.

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  7. For farmers to have high yields in maize production, they need to be knowledgeable on fall army worms and other pests that affect crops. Therefore, I support this project because it will improve livelihoods, more so farmers who are the main beneficiaries.

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  8. I highly recommend this project by Justina because 90% of the maize produce is produced by small scale farmers who are also badly affected by Fall armyworms. Therefore, I believe that knowledge transfer and awareness on this pest will help farmers readily apply available and environmentally friendly measures. This will in the end contribute to improved productivity and reduce poverty in Zambia.

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  9. I support this project because maize is widely cultivated in Zambia and I believe knowledge transfer and awareness creation on FAW will really our farmers, especially those living in rural areas.

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  10. It is important to empower farmers with knowledge on how best to control FAW before any eventuality. I strongly support this project.

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  11. This is a great project on FAW. It will really help farmers on how to effectively manage pests in cropping systems. Farmers will be able to manage and handle control measures by themselves than always for the support of donors and other institutions.

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  12. I support this project because it will help farmers improve their productivity and earn an income from from their produce.

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  13. I am in full support of this project because farmers and the general community at large will have knowledge on combating FAW and effectively apply it as an early control measure. In short, it will much easier to trace this pest and produce more healthy food.

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  14. I see this project helping farmers to be highly productive and it will also create more jobs in agriculture value chains. I support this project idea

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  15. This project on FAW is important in the sense that it help farmers improve their yields and it will also save on the costs farmers incur to control this pests such as purchase of pesticides. Great project idea Justina. Well done

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  16. What a thoroughly thoughtful project that will help help to reduce the cost of production in MAIZE. The farmers will have all the knowledge on FAW at their finger tips.

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  17. Talking from experience, these FAW are a serious threat to food security in our country. My maize field was badly affected in 2017 and massively reduced the yield consequently affected my income.

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  18. It is important for people to have knowledge on Fall Armyworm because knowledge is power which will help farmers in their farming activities especially sustainable control of the pest. I therefore 100% support this project idea.

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  19. I m in support of this project because it will inprove maize yield production and our farmers will enjoy a profitable farming business

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  20. The reason is to sustain high crop yield because the army worms damage crops reducing on the production of crops

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  21. The importance of this project lies in the fact that incidences of pests will be reduced through sustainable measures because the use of synthetic pesticides is reported to cause carcinogenic disease in humans.

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  22. Its very important because farmers wil be helped to come up with the strategy to improve farming activities by overcoming the spread of army worm in their farms and therefore produce health maize. This research can also help famers to protect the farm from these pests hence the production will be enlarge to bring in development.

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  23. Fall armyworms reduce productivity therefore if farmers are empowered with knowledge it will help to boost the production of maize and how to fight is pendemic

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  24. Farmers should be quick to inform the agricultural officers to help control fall army worm together. This will really to improve crop production and bring a sense of ownership in control of pests in an integrated manner. I support this project

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  25. Army worms have being a threat to the agricultural sector of Zambia therefore, learning more about them can send an awareness to most areas of the country which might further bring high yields.

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  26. I see successful implementing of this project resulting in integrated pest management of FAW and also improved yields. Empowering farmers with knowledge on pests is indeed the way to go if this country is to produce enough food to feed the growing population. I support you mama

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  27. This project is vital for improved production and productivity in maize if farmers level of literacy on pests such as FAW and its best options on IPM are improved. All the best

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  28. This project idea will help farmers know how to effectively control the out breaks of army worms in an environmentally friendly manner and detect attacks early. I like the this idea and it has my support.

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  29. What you have come up with Justina is a very good project idea. Fall army worm has been destroying poor farmers cereal crops countrywide in Zambia and the SADC region at large. This is one pest where we cannot afford to ensure that there is proper knowledge transfer and sensitisation campaigns to sustainably control FAW and reduce its negative impact on small scale farmers.

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  30. What your project idea is trying to achieve will help reduce the problem of dependence syndrome exhibited by most farmers. Mostly chemicals are supplied when the FAW has adversely affected the maize crop but these negative impacts can be avoided if farmers are empowered with the knowledge and technical skill on IMP of FAW in cropping systems. I have confidence this project will have a great impact on agriculture in Zambia and its multiplier effect will be felt on the economy.

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  31. This is a very good program. Talking on behalf of farmers, FAW are quite deadly and therefore educating farmers will be helpful in terms of measures and precautions that they can take to improve their production. I support this idea.

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  32. Such programs or project ideas should be supported because the main focus is the farmer who is also the main beneficiary. When farmers gain knowledge on FAW and its management, it will be easy to combat this pest using less costly and effective strategies. You also talk about youth empowerment in your project which I see to be cardinal for me because the youth of today is the future potential farmer. Hence community awareness at household level should also be encouraged.

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  33. Justina, I have also witnessed certain farmers failing to grow maize including other crops because of such issues as FAW and other pest attack. Currently those who have suffered these attacks do not know where to purchase chemicals and these pesticides are also costly, which adds to production costs. I hope such ideas by young researchers can be supported because knowledge is power.

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  34. Sensitisation programs such as this one suggested by Justina are very essential in agriculture because empowerment will help farmers to attend to pests attack on time and therefore improve production levels with less dependence on government programs. Therefore, I see a knowledgeable farmer with skills in integrated pest management being applied to improve livelihoods and incomes at household level. Furthermore, this has a multiplier effect on education and the economy at large.

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  35. This is a wonderful project madam Justine,personally I am in full support of your project this is what Zambian farmers need especially us farming in the copperbelt. dissemination of information via awareness campaign and sensitization meetings will really do for the agent need to control FAW. keep it up madam you have put up brilliant ideas in the above document.

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