The Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO)-organised emergency meeting on trans-boundary crop pests hosted by Zimbabwe ended with the 16 Eastern and Southern African countries agreeing on urgent action plans to boost the region’s capacity in managing crop pests and livestock diseases.

This comes as most countries are battling to contain the fall armyworm and other crop pests and animal diseases.

The participants also resolved to strengthen national and regional early warning systems, responses and preparedness plans.

FAO Sub-Regional Coordinator for Southern Africa, Dr David Phiri expressed satisfaction with the outcomes of the meeting and pledged the organisation’s commitment to supporting member countries in close collaboration with SADC and other partners and stakeholders to implement the necessary assessment activities.

Participants at the 3-day meeting agreed that the fall armyworm infestation shows the urgent need for swift and coordinated action to deal with such threats.

They identified gaps in the region’s early warning systems, response mechanism, preparedness, contingency planning, information dissemination and regional coordination.

Zambia has reported that almost 90 000 hectares of maize have been affected by the worm, forcing farmers to replant their crops.

In Malawi, some 17 000 hectares have so far been affected, while in Namibia, approximately 50 000 hectares of maize and millet have been damaged.

In Zimbabwe, up to 130 000 hectares could be affected.

The meeting also stressed the need to deal with emerging trans-boundary livestock diseases such as highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) which, if not properly managed, can spread rapidly with devastating impact on poultry production.