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Akinwunmi Adesina, others call for global action to save African crops

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President of the African Development Bank, Akinwumi Adesina. PHOTO: Eric Piermont/AFP/Getty Images

The world’s anti-hunger organizations have an opportunity to prevent widespread destruction of African crops by stopping the spread of an insect, warn three of the most respected thinkers on international agriculture.

However, the international community must act swiftly, in cooperation, and on a large scale to do so. The fall armyworm reportedly has a foothold in 28 nations in Africa, and it feeds on crops that include maize, which more than 200 million Africans depend on for food security.

“The armyworm is a clear and present danger,” said Akinwumi Adesina, who will be inducted as the 2017 World Food Prize winner on October 19 in Des Moines, Iowa. “Doing nothing is not an option. What we need are urgent actions to support Africa, to rapidly address this real threat to its food security.”

The World Food Prize is popularly known as the Nobel Prize for agriculture. Adesina is President of the African Development Bank. He is calling for action from the world’s governmental, non-profit, corporate, and academic leaders gathered for a three-day symposium surrounding his induction.

Known as the Norman Borlaug Dialogue, the symposium draws a global agricultural development community to Des Moines to discuss strategies for responding to the greatest challenges in feeding a world population expected to rise to 10 billion by mid-century.

“Stopping the armyworm is the highest purpose to which we can dedicate this year’s Borlaug Dialogue,” said Pedro Sanchez, a soil scientist with the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences and the 2002 World Food Prize laureate. “We hope to galvanize those with resources and expertise to rush to the aid of those in need.”

Robert Fraley, Executive Vice-President and Chief Technology Officer at Monsanto and the 2013 laureate, emphasized that a great deal is known about how to address the threat. In fact, the fall armyworm has long been in North America, but scientists and producers have largely been successful in containing it.

“The good news is that this threat is eminently preventable. We have strategies to detect the insect early, to stop its spread, and to identify crop varieties most resistant to it,” Fraley said. “The world’s anti-hunger community needs to invest the resources to put those tools to use.”



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