The Federal Government has urged farmers to embrace the use of a modified Mobile App developed to detect Fall Armyworms ravaging Maize farms and other crops in parts of the country.
Mrs. Karima Babangida, Director of Agriculture, at the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, made the appeal in Kaduna, at the opening of three-day training for extension service workers on the use of the modified device under the theme: “the use of FAWMEWS APP in the management and control of Fall Armyworm in Maize fields.”
Babangida noted that the training, a collaboration between the Federal government and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), was aimed at curtailing the spread of the worm in the Maize belt states of the north.
Newsmen report that selected Extension Service Workers drawn from the Maize-belt states of Kano, Kauduna, Katsina, Jigawa, Borno and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) are participating in the training, alongside Officials of the of Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Kaduna State government, National Agriculture Quarantine Service, and the Institute of Agriculture Research and Training, Ibadan.
Babangida underscored the importance of the stakeholders’ meeting of the maize sub sector as it will enable them understand the importance of the Maize value chain in the nation’s agriculture and ”further think of ways through which we can increase maize yields and specifically to manage and control Fall Armyworm on Maize fields.
“One of the important visions of the Federal Government of Nigeria is to alleviate hunger and ensure food security, through an improved agricultural sector that ensures regular food supply at affordable prices.
“You will all recall the recent scarcity of Maize grains and the inability of some industries that depend on Maize grains, such as poultry and flour mills, to meet their production targets because the price of Maize grains had became out of reach”, she said.
She added: “The reasons for the scarcity, as you are all aware, include Maize farmers’ inability to produce at optimum level, due to invasion of Fall Armyworm, poor seeds and non-adherence to good agricultural practices.
”The issues relating to Fall Armyworm, especially need to be repeatedly discussed as the pest is actually robbing farmers of economic returns, which is totally unacceptable as Nigerians depends so much on Maize for food.
“Maize production is an aspect of agriculture which the federal government of Nigeria has keen interest in because of its nutritional and economic value and the millions of jobs that will be created for our youths and women”.
Babangida lauded the efforts of the FAO in its technical support to Nigeria’s Agricultural sector especially the ”recent support in combating Tuta Absoluta pest in Tomato, Fall Armyworm in Maize, capacity building in Rice, among others.
Dr Mufutau Adeleke, National Coordinator of the FAW project, said it was being implemented in 12 states with the federal government providing personnel and logistics support.
He said farmers still faced the challenges of how to control and manage the Fall Armyworm ravaging their crops.
“Many of our farmers lost up to 60per cent of their produce annually due to the ravaging worms, thereby affecting their incomes and the nation’s food security”, Adeleke said, but added that there were no readily available data of farmers or hectares of farmland that had so far been affected by the worm since its outbreak in 2016 in parts of the country.
Ms Adeola Akinrinlola the FAW project Desk officer, said while leading the trainees on a field study to two farms in Barnawa, Kaduna, said that the modified App was helpful in early detection of the worms on crops, and it had been made more farmer friendly, making it easier for them to handle.
She said the App had the ability to help farmers and extension workers check their crops for infestation, calculate the infestation level, take immediate actions to manage the situation, and upload the required data.
“The data is validated by National Fall Armyworm focal points and transferred to a web-based global 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”, Akinrinlola said.
Meanwhile, Nasiru Adamu, a participant and staff of the Kano State Agriculture and Rural Development Authority (KNARDA) said the FAO training on the mobile App, conducted between 2018 to date, had been stepped down for more than 1800 extension workers in the state.
Adamu, who is also the FAW focal person in Kano, said the extension workers were already conversant with the App, making there use of the modified mobile App easier.
He said that scores of farmers had already been trained on Integrated Pest Management using both conventional and local methods, pointing out that a monthly training was also being conducted by the extension workers in collaboration with the Maize Farmers Association to tackle the pest in the state.
Adamu said the state had created nine training centers, three in each of the senatorial districts, which had yielded positive results in the control and management of the pest.
Two farmers, Mr Musa Aboi and Abdallah Dan-Musa, whose farms were visited as part of the training, told NAN that the worms had continued to ravage their crops, crippling their harvest and subsequently their incomes.
“We hardly harvested up to 60 per cent of the crop, because they were destroyed midway by the worms,” they said, adding that hundreds of farmers in Kaduna State also suffered the same fate and appealed to the state government for intervention.
The device was introduced by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in the country in 2018 for early detection of the worms ravaging Maize and other cereals.
FAO said the device was modified to be more user friendly, with additional information capable of assisting farmers in early detection of the pest to curtail its spread.
The UN agency is retraining the extension service workers on the modified mobile app to help farmers intensify effort in the management and control of the pest to ensure maximum crop harvest to meet Nigeria’s current food security needs.
FAO said: “the Fall Armyworm, an insect pest of more than 80 plant species is currently causing damage to economically important cultivated cereals including maize, rice, sorghum, and also to vegetable crops and cotton in parts of the country.
“The worm, native to tropical and subtropical regions of the North and South Americas, first appeared in Africa in 2016 and spread rapidly to more than 40 countries, including Nigeria.”
The FAO began implementation of a $530,000 US dollar programme, using the mobile app, across 12 selected states in 2018.