By Hawa Lawal
Abuja, Feb. 11, 2019 (NAN) The National Task Force on Falls Army Worms (FAW) has called on Federal Government to declare a state of emergency on army worms in Nigeria.


The committee said the declaration became necessary following the need to sustain the fight against army worms which had led to the loss of estimated N275.4 billion by maize farmers in the South West alone.


The African army  worm (Spodoptera exempta), also called on okalombo, kommandowurm or nutgrass army worm, is an African moth and a very deleterious pest, capable of destroying the entire crops of a farm in a couple of weeks.


A member of the committee, Mr Suffyan Koroma, the FAO Country Representative in Nigeria said at the opening of the meeting of the National Task Force on Fall Army Worms (FAW) on Monday in Abuja.


Koroma, who was represented by Mr Ahmed Matani, FAO official, said that it had become imperative for government to implement a policy on FAW as the committee was particularly concerned about the disastrous impact which FAW could have on countries that were already facing crises.


He said that as part of efforts to ensure sustainable food and nutrition security in Nigeria, the committee would go into action and work out the modalities to ensure sustainable actions.


The FAO official said that the crop-eating moth, which had devastated maize farms in over 40 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, remained a scourge for many farmers in the region.


“Fall Army worm, which originated from the Americas, was reported for the first time in Nigeria and some African countries in 2016; it has a migratory habit and can spread fast, eating up crops on its path,’’ he said.


Koroma said that the measures to be taken by the committee include assembling experts to brainstorm on sustainable FAW management; building better warning, monitoring and response mechanisms, while supporting farmers to mitigate pest damage, develop action plans and policies as well as training extension workers and farmers.


Prof. James Adediran, a member of the committee, also a Director, Soil Fertility, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, said the rainy season was around the corner and immediate action should be taken in line with the warning and predictions by NIMET.


Adediran told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), on the sidelines of the programme that the recent survey showed that the economic implication was already becoming devastating as it had reduced the income and total loss of revenue to farmers.


“Some of the farmers in the South West alone lost over 30 hectares of maize farmland to the outbreak,’’ he said.


Adediran said that this could also lead to low grain yields and income which could further discourage farmers to invest in maize production since no one to remunerate them for the losses.


He said that the economic effect of the pest would also be felt by the agro industries that produce livestock feeds as the industry accounted for over 60 per cent utilisation of maize.


Prof. Christogonus Daudu, also a member of the committee said government needed to take urgent action in declaring the state of emergency as the outbreak could jeopardise the food security programme.


Daudu, who is also the Assistant Director, Research, Planning and Evaluation, National Agricultural and Research Liaison Services (NAERLS) said that the feedbacks they were getting from farmers across the country “is very alarming’’ and needed urgent attention.


He said that globally FAW had become an emergency considering the damages it had caused globally.


“The Nigeria idea of when it comes we will face it and combat it is now out of place at the rate at which the warms attack and destroyed farms.


“Government should put a policy in place to combat the menace because the achievements recorded on agriculture could be reversed by the outbreak, if care is not taken,’’ he said.


The meeting agreed that the three tiers of government should build on the existing structures of the ADPs at the state levels and follow up on the activities of the maize farmers.


They also agreed on regular sensitisation and training of farmers on the biology, ecology and control of the warms.


The committee said that if not arrested on time, it could also have devastating effect on the malnutrition programme of the government.


Alhaji Bello Abubakar, the National President, Maize Association of Nigeria, told the meeting that army worm in 2018 invaded many farmlands in 12 states wreaking havoc on all the farms in the process.


The states include Kastina, Kaduna, Jigawa, Kwara, Osun, Enugu, Yobe, Platue and Niger, with 20 million tonnes of production destroyed against the expected high production due to the attack of FAW.


Abubakar described the attack as a major challenge facing efforts to achieve food security in the country as a high percentage of the farmers were losing virtually all their farm produces to the pest.


He warned that famine might occur across the country if tangible measures were not taken to deal with the current invasion of the armyworms.


Abubakar expressed the hope that with the implementation of the National Task Force on Falls Armyworm, adequate measure would be put in place to tame the tide of the outbreak.


“The attack this year is creating more fears because of the rate at which the worms are destroying farms in the affected areas,’’ he said.


NAN recalls that the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh inaugurated the Task Force on behalf of the Federal Government in Abuja in 2018 to serve as a strategic national approach to the control and management of FAW infestation.


Members of the National Task Force on FAW include Dr. Mufutau Adeleke, Ajayi  Olutobaba, Mr Mike Kanu , Aliyu Danlami Chafe, Dr Ishiakbio Khalid, Dr Vincent Isegbe, Prof. J.A. Adediran, Prof. Rabiu Adamu, Alhaji Abubakar Bello, Prof. Chris Dauda,


Others are Mr Sabiu S. Ismaila, Mr O.B.Adeniyan, Dr Oluwakemi  Odeyemi, Mrs Adeola Akinrinlola, Ben Odoemena, Dr Charles Iyangbe, Dr Alpha Kamara,  Sarrazin Felix. Others are Hauwa Funmilayo, Prof Ibrahim Haruna, Prof Aaron Baba and Mallam Isah Adamu. (NAN)


Edited by Grace Yussuf