Latest book in the CABI Invasive Series: Parthenium Weed
Parthenium weed (Parthenium hysterophorus) is considered one of the worst weeds in the world. It has invaded and is widespread in about 48 countries in Africa, Asia and the South Pacific, and has the potential to spread to new countries in Africa, Asia and parts of Europe. In the countries it has invaded, it has devastating effects on the livelihoods of millions of people causing significant economic, health and environmental loss. In order to effectively manage parthenium weed and mitigate the impacts it has, one needs a good understanding of the biology and ecology of the weed as well as effective management strategies already utilised. As the editors of CABI’s new book on Parthenium so candidly put, ‘know your enemy’ is the first step in effective management.
In Pakistan, it has been reported that this weed is present almost everywhere, but the dilemma is that the general public have little to no knowledge about its harmful impacts. Keeping in view these facts, CABI in Pakistan under the Action on Invasives programme, recently launched an awareness drive in the rural areas of the Sheikhupura district to spread information on the negative impacts of this alien weed among more remote communities.
A training session was recently organized by CABI in Pakistan on the identification and management of Parthenium Hysterophorous to a variety of stakeholders. These activities were part of the Parthenium awareness campaign which CABI has launched under Action on Invasives, in the Sheikhupura district (Pilot district), Punjab focusing particularly on rural communities.
The poisonous Parthenium hysterophorus plant is one of the world’s most destructive invasive plant species, threatening biodiversity, food security and human health across numerous countries. The herb is native to Central and South America but has spread to over 40 countries over recent decades including Australia, India, Ethiopia, Swaziland and South Africa.
CABI, together with Tmax Productions, have produced a video called the ‘Green Invasion – Destroying Livelihoods in Africa.” The short film (approx. 7mins long) details how invasive weeds are impacting on the lives of rural communities in East Africa.
Although a large number of non-native species have become invasive in the region, this film focusses on four of the most problematic species namely Chromolaena odorata (Devil weed), Parthenium hysterophorus (famine weed), Prosopis juliflora (Mathenge) and Opuntia stricta (erect prickly pear). The excellent footage shows the extent of weed infestations with accounts from community members on how these invasive plants are destroying the natural resource base on which they depend. It is clear that invasive weeds are destroying traditions, cultures and a way of life for millions of people on the continent.
However, all is not lost. The film notes that if effective management programmes are implemented, including biological control, we can make a difference to many people’s lives.
Although of general interest, the film is intended to raise the profile of invasive species and their impacts on livelihoods amongst donors and governments. We need them to take action and provide support for initiatives to manage one of the biggest threats to economic development on the planet.
Arne Witt CABI Regional Coordinator, Invasives (Africa & Asia) @WittArne