23/02/18

Biovision assisting with strategies to combat invasive species in Africa

How can we identify the arrival of invasive alien species at an earlier stage and so limit their destructive impact more quickly? At the end of February, two experts from Biovision attended an international workshop held at icipe in Nairobi, where together with 100 other participants, they investigated concrete solutions.  

Stefan Diener, Programme Officer Biovision

The impact of invasive alien species extends beyond crop failures: They are also extremely costly to combat, damage biodiversity and even cause serious conflict between farmers. The Fall Armyworm, an invader from South America is currently eating its way through the maize and sorghum crops in Africa. In some areas, they have totally destroyed harvests (see Article in NZZ in German). In addition, invasive plants continue to plague local people. Prosopis juliflora, a member of the mimosa sub-family competes very successfully with native plants for light and water, robbing both livestock and humans of a basic food source. The weeds are indigestible and so there is less grazing land available. This forces livestock farmers to divert to neighbouring areas, which triggers conflict with other farmers.

 

  • At the icipe stand, delegates saw the damage caused to plants, including by the Fall Armyworm
  • Some 100 experts from 27 countries came together at icipeā€˜s Duduville Campus in Nairobi.
  • Segenet Kelemu, Director General, icipe
  • The stands highlighting current research and observations by the co-organisers of the workshop * allowed experts to exchange ideas.
    * CABI (Centre for Agriculture and Biosciences International, Kenya), IITA (International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, Nigeria) and icipe (International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology, Kenya)
  • Biovision was represented at the workshop by Stefan Diener, biologist and Andreas Sicks, Head of Programmes and Partnerships (both in the photo with Liz Ng' ang' a, a communications specialist at icipe).

Prevention is better than cure

Governments and NGOs like Biovision seeking to improve food security in sub-Saharan Africa face yet another massive challenge. This was why experts from 27 countries attended a workshop at icipe in Nairobi at the end of February. Funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), it sought to pave the way for the development of a pan-African strategy for tackling invasive species. Through a series of presentations by international experts and discussions by focus groups, the participants pooled their experience and agreed recommendations on what needs to be done to bring about a comprehensive solution. Of particular importance was the realisation that more attention must be given in future to prevention. Experience has shown that investment to prevent invasions, e.g. through import controls and the preparation of action plans is less expensive that the cost of the damage from invasive species. Once an alien species has established itself, it is extremely costly to reduce the invaders to a tolerable level. The issue is a high priority for Biovision and so we will continue to feed our expertise into the process to develop concrete solutions. This will include the positive experience of farmers using the Push-Pull method where losses from the Fall Armyworm have been 80% lower.