CABI in partnership with Ministry of Agriculture in Zambia through the National Agricultural Information Services (NAIS) has launched a national radio campaign focusing on the identification, prevention and management of fall armyworm. The campaign aims to help smallholder farmers in Zambia minimise fall armyworm losses and learn how to safely use chemicals.
Funded through the Action on Invasives programme, the large-scale communication campaign will take place during the 2018/19 maize growing season to assist smallholder farmers in Zambia to safely and sustainably manage fall armyworm.
From this month until March next year, sixteen radio shows will be broadcast on the Farmers’ Notebook program aired on ZNBC Radio 1. These radio shows will be 10 minutes long and will be produced and broadcast in the eight official languages of Zambia which include English, Tonga, Bemba, Nyanja, Lozi, Lunda, Luvale, and Kaonde. Given the many languages spoken in Zambia and the fact that coverage isn’t universal for the national channels, a selection of channels is likely to have wider reach. NAIS will also distribute these radio programs to selected community radio stations across six provinces in Zambia.
From surveys and research carried out by CABI in Zambia, it’s been found that while farmers are able to correctly identify fall armyworm in their fields, the real problem is in successfully managing it. In general, farmers use pesticides to control fall armyworm, feeling that it is the most effective method. Some farmers also use cultural methods such as early planting, applying ash, boom, neem or sand, and handpicking. However, the effectiveness of these methods is still up for debate and varies from farmer to farmer.
“In as far as chemical application is concerned, farmers do not always full follow the recommended safety guidelines,” noted the Director of Agriculture, Mr Peter Lungu, “In addition, depending on their income, they are not always able to buy pesticides.” In most cases, farmers do not manage to buy chemicals adequate enough to spray their entire fields. This means that they are mostly only able to spray affected areas and have reported that fall armyworm comes back after some time. This is likely due to being unable to follow the right application procedures and/or using the wrong chemicals. “Farmers are also looking for more biological and cultural methods because their socio-economic status doesn’t allow them to continually purchase chemicals to spray in large fields,” said Mr Lungu.
Farmers need information on how they can successfully and sustainably manage this invasive pest; fall armyworm is an extremely important economic pest because it can drastically reduce crop yields, which was seen in the 2016/17 growing season.
Extension workers are farmers’ primary source of advice. However, their coverage is limited by the numbers employed and the large size of the country. Therefore, building their capacity on fall armyworm identification, management, and monitoring is key to reaching farmers. Through this radio campaign, programmes will be sharing the most currently agreed and nationally-verified best practices to upskill extension workers working on fall armyworm.
The radio programmes over the course of the season and regular mobile communications interactions will reinforce key information and support in areas where extension worker coverage is limited. The hope is then to see improved and safer fall armyworm identification and management practices by smallholder farmers across Zambia.
The key topics which will be covered in the radio series are:
- Preventative measures
- How to identify fall armyworm in the field
- Appropriate responses for different levels of infestation
- Recommended pesticides for fall armyworm management
- Indigenous methods that can be used to control fall armyworm for those with financial constraints
- Safe pesticide usage practices
Listen below to the radio programme aired on 5th December that formally launched the campaign:
CABI gratefully acknowledges the support of UK Department for International Development (DFID) and the Netherlands Directorate-General for International Cooperation (DGIS) whose funding contributions make Action on Invasives possible.