Transboundary plant pests and diseases continue to affect the production of food crops in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region resulting in negative impacts that include significant losses to farmers. They constitute a serious threat to food security and reduce export trade opportunities in plant and plant-based products.
As much as 40 per cent of the world’s crops are lost to pests and diseases each year, according to estimates from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).
To tackle this, FAO and SADC are working in partnership with the Centre for Agriculture and Bioscience International (CABI) to provide technical support to SADC Member States to develop national pest management strategies through the European Union-funded ‘Support Towards Operationalization of the SADC Regional Agricultural Policy’ Project (STOSAR).
An integrated regional approach is being used to inform and develop national strategies that are based on the SADC regional strategies developed for the management of five priority transboundary plant pests and diseases: Fall Armyworm, tomato leafminer, fruit flies, banana Fusarium wilt TR4 and maize lethal necrosis disease.
The Plant Production and Protection Officer at FAO’s Subregional Office for Southern Africa, Mathew Abang said, “National pest/disease management strategies are being developed with the technical support of FAO and CABI to improve the performance of national plant health services of SADC countries; to enable better monitoring, early detection, prevention, and effective and timely control of transboundary plant pests and diseases.”
The STOSAR Project facilitated a two-day regional workshop to assess the progress made by SADC Member States in the development of country-specific national pest management strategies.
Presentations from the Member States revealed that plant pest management strategies are at varying stages of development with inadequate resources being highlighted as a gap that needs to be addressed to expedite the completion of the national strategies.
A highlight of the two-day meeting was a strategy development presentation by CABI that emphasized that the basis of the national strategies must be informed by a national plant health phytosanitary capacity evaluation and must have a results framework with clear goals, outcomes, objectives, outputs and actions.
SADC Secretariat’s Crop Programme Officer, Esaiah Tjelele, commended the STOSAR Project saying, “the development of the national pest management strategies is a tangible and sustainable result that will ensure that the Member States continue tackling plant pests and diseases long after the project has come to an end.”
CABI Director Dr Noah Phiri, thanked FAO for the continued partnership, saying CABI would continue to support activities towards the operationalization of the SADC Regional Agricultural Policy (RAP).
It is hoped that the Member States will fully utilize and implement the developed strategies to effectively protect their agricultural industries from devastating plant pests and diseases, thereby contributing to increased food security and trade in the region.