FAO developing monitoring system to fight against Fall Armyworm in Africa
UNICEF and the World Food Programme also received funding in the first round of the new initiative from Belgium.
FAO is further developing a monitoring, early-warning and risk-mapping system to help farmers manage an invasive species in Africa, and roll out solar energy projects for farmers in Gaza, as part of innovative projects awarded funding by the Government of Belgium.
Thanks to an initiative sponsored by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Development Cooperation Alexander De Croo in line with the Belgium Humanitarian Aid Strategy - geared to promote innovation - FAO was granted two million euros to broaden its fight against Fall Armyworm in Africa and restore agricultural productive activity in Gaza.
"At a time of rising hunger, when bridges between humanitarian and development assistance are needed, innovation is crucial, especially when threats to food security are complex and multiform," said Dominique Burgeon, FAO's Director of Emergencies and Resilience Strategic Programme Leader.
"Innovation in this sense needs to be both relevant to specific contexts and scalable," Burgeon added. "We welcome the challenge from Belgium to pioneer innovations, which for us is an opportunity to find viable solutions."
UNICEF and the World Food Programme also received funding in the first round of the new initiative from Belgium, to promote international development.
The recent arrival of Fall Armyworm (FAW) in sub-Saharan Africa has put maize harvests, especially those of smallholders, at grave risk. FAO is developing and coordinating the implementation of two new tools: the Fall Armyworm Monitoring and Early Warning System (FAMEWS) and the Fall Armyworm Risk-Map.
FAO has recently deployed a mobile application for use by farmers, communities and agriculture extension agents when they check fields and pheromone traps for FAW. The collected data help monitor FAW population levels and movements.
FAMEWS consists of a global platform, incorporating information from the app, and innovative technologies such as artificial intelligence to help farmers better identify FAW.
In addition to FAMEWS, FAO is developing a risk-mapping tool. This tool incorporates diverse socio-economic and agro-ecological data so that responders can visualize where the underlying risk of household food insecurity due to FAW is highest. The tool consists of a number of layers allowing users to disaggregate risk into its constituent parts. By highlighting potential "hotspots", the tool is intended to assist decision-makers in prioritizing and preparing for early action in targeted areas.
Combining FAMEWS with the different layers of the risk-mapping tool will empower Governments and their development and humanitarian partners to target different kinds of interventions in specific geographical areas and within optimal timeframes. The new project will provide a much-needed boost to the development, updating, interlinking, and rollout of FAMEWS and the risk-mapping tool across Africa.
The project aims to show the usefulness of combining two innovative tools to fight a common pest on an Africa-wide scale. It may serve as a model for confronting a wide range of transboundary plant and animal pests and diseases, paving the way for new approaches to assessing and mitigating food-security risks around the continent.