The application is vital for early detection of Fall Armyworm and guiding best response, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) says.
The Inspirer reporter
FAO has launched a mobile application to enable farmers, agricultural workers and other partners at the frontline of the fight against Fall Armyworm in Africa, to identify, report the level of infestation, map the spread of this crop destructive insect, as well as to describe its natural enemies and the measures that are most effective in managing it.
The system announced on March 14, 2018, in Rome comes when FAO warns that Fall Armyworm (FAW) has already infected millions of hectares of maize in Africa — a staple crop across the continent — threatening the food security of more than 300 million people, mainly small-holder farmers who are already struggling to make ends meet and have enough food for their families.
The Fall Armyworm Monitoring and Early Warning System (FAMEWS) mobile app provides valuable insights on how the insect changes over time and space to improve knowledge of its behaviour in Africa – in a new context – and guide best response.
Highlighting how the pest has spreading and is getting prevalent in Africa, which calls for concerted and integrated efforts to contain it, FAO states that by early 2018, only 10 (mostly in the north of the continent) out of the 54 African states and territories have not reported infestations by the fast-spreading, crop-munching pest.
“The app will help us build our collective knowledge of Fall Armyworm in Africa, and connect all the dots – from how and where it spreads to what makes it weaker and less damaging,” said Keith Cressman, FAO Senior Agricultural Officer who led the development of the app together with the UN agency’s partners.
“The app is useful on two fronts: for farmers and agricultural workers in the direct management of their crops to prevent further infestations and reduce damage; and for all actors involved in managing Fall Armyworm in Africa, by providing vital analysis on risks, spread and management. — Cressman.
Helping farmers take appropriate action
Once farmers and workers check their crops for infestations and upload the required data, the app calculates infestation levels so that farmers can take immediate actions to manage the situation.
The data is validated by national Fall Armyworm focal points and transferred to a global web-based platform. It is then analyzed to give a real-time situation overview with maps of Fall Armyworm infestations and the measures that were most effective in reducing its impact.
Initially implemented in Madagascar and Zambia, the app is now being rolled out across all countries in Sub-Saharan Africa affected by the invasive pest through the FAO-supported Farmer Field Schools (FFSs) as well as other community-based forums leading the fight against Fall Armyworm.
Updates to the app in the coming months will provide additional functionality such as an offline advisory system that provides immediate guidance to the user, based on the collected data, and a diagnostic tool that uses the camera of the mobile phone to determine Fall Armyworm damage levels to maize.
The app is an integral part of FAO’s sustainable management programme for Fall Armyworm in Africa. It supports all stages of Fall Armyworm management from early warning and monitoring to response and risk assessment.
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