Africa risks losing 20m tons of maize to pest — AATF
The African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) said the continent is at risk of losing over 20 million metric tons of maize to Fall Armyworm pest, in the next few years, if necessary measures are not taken to avert this.
Coordinator of the Teller Maize Project of the AATF, Dr. Sylvester Oikeh, disclosed this yesterday, at Ahmadu Bello University, (ABU) Zaria, Kaduna State.
He said the foundation would install state-of-the-art irrigation facilities at the Institute of Agricultural Research (IAR) of the ABU to produce worm and drought resistant maize variety.
Oikeh said the new maize variety would specifically address the devastation caused by the disease.
According to him, research has shown that the Fall Armyworm had between 2016 and 2017 destroyed maize worth $270m in only four states of Abia, Ekiti, Oyo and Ondo.
“One bad thing about the pest is that, it is very prolific in laying eggs and hatching. Within a night, we are told that it covers hundreds of kilometers. For example, in the study that was carried out, we were told that in just 12 countries, we lost $2.6b to $6b.
The countries that grow more maize are Nigeria and Tanzania. You can imagine if two countries are losing $2.6b per annum, that is huge money.
“We are told that if Africa doesn’t take action, it is going to be losing 20 million metric tons of maize annually, which is enough to feed 100 million people. This means large percentage of our population will suffer starvation and food deficiency, knowing how important maize is in Africa. That is to tell you the impact of this pest,” he added.
Oikeh however, explained that before the new variety of maize would be released to farmers, it would be subjected to the scrutiny of all statutory regulatory agencies for confirmation of its safety, hence the need for the cooperation of all stakeholders.