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Relief as new fall armyworm technology proves efficiency

AFTER using a temporary pesticide combination to fight against fall armyworm (Spodoptera frugiperda), farmers in many parts of the country will now smile after Project Concern International (PCI) developed a new technology that will help them fight against the destructive army worms.

PCI has been working with agricultural extension officers and smallholder farmers to develop technologies to manage fall armyworm through a community-based approach and has now developed a mobile phone application dubbed “AfriFARM” for monitoring and early detection of such species.

According to PCI, the new technology provides a lasting solution to armyworms that have affected more than half of the country, thus posing a threat to food security.

The mobile app will monitor and give an early warning system to farmers regarding fall armyworm and then will build knowledge on how and where the armyworms spread and make them less destructive.

PCI Agriculture Manager Amithay Kuhanda, while presenting the technology to government officials and development partners, said the new tool would help farmers recognise the new enemy and take immediate measures to control it.

“With the new application, farmers can hold a mobile phone next to an affected plant, and they will be able to detect and immediately confirm the fall armyworm,” said Mr Kuhanda.

He explained that early detection, collecting and analysing information was essential for tracking and efficiently responding to the large-scale threat posed by the fall armyworm.

The fall armyworm was first reported to be present on the African continent in January 2016 (Goergen 2016) and invaded Tanzania in 2017.

Subsequent investigations have revealed the destructive species to have spread to nearly all of sub-Saharan Africa, causing extensive destruction, especially to maize farms and to a lesser degree, sorghum and other crops.

Over 30 countries have identified the pest within their borders, including island countries of Cape Verde, Madagascar, São Tomé and Príncipe and Seychelles.

Mr Kuhanda further said since October 2017, the application had registered over 9,000 users who had improved their knowledge on how to respond to the pest by 14 per cent points after only three months of use and 93 per cent of users reported that AfriFARM saved them time.

PCI Country Director Nick Ford said they were committed to working directly with families, communities and their partners in the government of Tanzania to end hunger and create food security.

“We want to use this new technology to solve some of the biggest challenges in Tanzania.

As PCI, we appreciate the cooperation we have received from the government,” he noted. Presenting another app developed by PCI, AfriScout Regional Coordinator, Dr John Laffa, said the application helped pastoralists in arid areas to find pasture and water resources for their cattle.

“This application uses satellite maps that show the density of vegetation and available water resources in grazing areas.

Satellite data is continuously updated and can be accessed via simple mobile phones,” he explained.

Dr Laffa said the platform not only alerted users the existence of predators, but it also let them notify others of areas where there was a fight between tribes.

SOME girls from the informal system of education, ...

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Author: HILDA MHAGAMA

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