CABI announces major commitments in fight against invasive species

The first expert panel; from left: Orlando Sosa (FAO), Chaona Phiri (Birdlife Zambia), Kabelo Brown (moderator) and Arne Witt (CABI)

Coinciding with its regional consultation with member states in Africa, CABI hosted a policy summit on invasive species in Gaborone, Botswana on 28 February. About 70 delegates representing policymakers, research, the private sector and civil society from across Africa gathered to learn about and discuss the impact of invasives as well as the technical and policy solutions required to defeat them.

The Hon Dr George Oduro (MoFA Ghana)

In his opening keynote, the Honourable Dr George Boahen Oduro, Deputy Minister from the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, Ghana, stressed that taking proactive steps is far better and cheaper than reacting to an outbreak: “a key element of Ghana’s invasive species strategy is therefore prevention and early detection”. CABI’s Director General, Development Dr Dennis Rangi echoed this sentiment with some concrete recommendations: “There are three concrete actions all stakeholders in Africa should commit to: firstly, all African countries should develop invasive species strategies and action plans; secondly, investment in tackling invasive species needs to be increased; and thirdly, policies and regulations that encourage the use of lower risk management methods must be developed.”

Three expert panels gave insights into specific areas. The first outlined the negative impact invasive species have on a number of areas. Orlando Sosa (FAO) discussed how the fall armyworm has impacted farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa, and how individual countries have mobilised to respond. Dr Arne Witt (CABI) provided concrete facts and figures that threw the impacts on invasives on biodiversity, food security and livelihoods into stark relief. Chaona Phiri (Birdlife Zambia) described how aquatic invasives not only impacted the native species in Zambian wetlands, but the knock-on social effects as communities reliant on fishing can no longer undertake their traditional way of life.

The second panel covered technical solutions for invasive species. Dr MaryLucy Oronje (CABI) showcased CABI’s ICT innovations, such as the Plantwise data collection app which allows for real-time tracking of pest outbreaks and was instrumental in tracking the spread of fall armyworm. Charles Macharia (Koppert Biological Sytems) outlined Koppert’s long history of developing biocontrols for agricultural application and how pheromone traps were very successful in controlling Tuta absoluta in East Africa. Dr Guy Preston (Department of Environmental Affairs, South Africa) pointed out that while eradication programmes – such as those of invasive plants and invasive predators like the house mouse on the oceanic islands of Gough Island, Marion Island and the Tristan archipelago – are effective, their perception by the general public is more negative than other conservation work.

Dr Trevor Nicholls (CABI)

The final panel focussed on enabling and scaling invasives solutions through policy. Renata Gómez (nrg4SD) explained that while the relationship between national and sub-national governments can sometimes be adversarial, a shared commitment to biodiversity means that there is generally cooperation on tackling invasives. Dr Subramanian Sevgan (icipe) described the joint icipe, IITA and CABI efforts to work on an African Regional Strategy on Invasive Species. Esaiah Tjelele (SADC) outlined how SADC was supporting their southern African members states in harmonising SPS and invasives policy.

To close the summit, CABI CEO Dr Trevor Nicholls thanked the contributors and delegates and made the following commitments to support Africa’s fight against invasive species:

  1. CABI will prepare a declaration on tackling invasives, signed by the summit delegates, to be ratified by all 49 CABI member countries at the CABI Review Conference in September 2019
  2. CABI will publish a research paper, updating the outdated 2001 figure of the global cost of invasives
  3. CABI will work with Regional Economic Communities and individual countries to develop action plans and campaign jointly for funding support an African Regional Strategy on Invasive Species
  4. CABI will continue to work with icipe and IITA to develop and implement an African Regional Strategy on Invasive Species.
  5. CABI will scale up CABI’s Plantwise and PRISE programmes to allow for more proactive preventative and surveillance measures against invasives

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