Cereal crop-eating caterpillars have infested maize fields in Namibia, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe. While pest identification is still being awaited in some countries, there is increasing evidence that the main pest could be the Fall Army Worm, which is extremely difficult and expensive to control/manage.
Malawi and Zimbabwe have also reported outbreaks of African armyworm, a pest that causes damage to cereal crops as well as pastures and rangelands. In addition, large populations of red and migratory locusts were observed in traditional breeding areas.
The potential combined effect of locust and armyworm outbreaks would be catastrophic, leading to further crop losses and extensive destruction of rangeland at a time when the Southern African region is yet to fully recover from the effects of El Nino induced droughts experienced last season. The situation is worsened by the spread of plant diseases such as the South American tomato leaf miner now found in Angola, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe, causing extensive damage.
Furthermore, the Eastern Africa region is currently on high alert, amid the spread of H5N1 highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in 12 West and Central African countries and its endemic anchor in some if the regional countries. There was detection and confirmation of the H5N8, another strain HPAI in both wild and domestic birds, along the shores of Lake Victoria, in Uganda.
Taking into consideration the rate at which these crop pests, livestock and zoonotic diseases spread, and the threat to food and nutrition security, livelihoods and human health, there is therefore urgent need to raise awareness and to strengthen the surveillance, preparedness and response capacities of affected and at risk countries in the Southern and Eastern Africa regions.
As such, FAO with funding from Africa Solidarity Trust Fund, USAID and UKAID and working with SADC and International Red Locust Control Organization for Central and Southern Africa (IRLCO-CSA), is hosting a three day meeting of key government ministries and departments responsible for disaster management, plant protection and livestock health and production, regional economic communities and other key stakeholders specifically, for countries at highest risk of key trans boundary crop pests and livestock diseases.
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