On 17 February 2017, officials from the Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS) Commission on Agriculture, Environment and Water Resources paid a courtesy visit to CABI’s West Africa Center in Accra. The purpose of this visit was to familiarise themselves with CABI’s operations in the West African sub-region. This meeting formed part of the Commission’s special visit to Accra to meet with partners and organizations implementing development projects in the agricultural sector to improve food security in West Africa.
The ECOWAS delegation consisted of the Commissioner for Agriculture, Environment and Water Resources, Mr Tchambakou Ayassor and the Director of Agriculture and Rural Development, Mr Alain Sy Traoré. They were welcomed to the CABI office by the Regional Coordinator, Dr Victor Attuquaye Clottey and his team. Briefing the CABI team on the purpose of their visit, Mr Sy Traoré expressed that the team took advantage of their presence in Accra to formally introduce the newly appointed Commissioner to CABI and also use the opportunity to understand the current situation of the Fall Armyworm (Spodoptera frugiperda) outbreak in the sub-region.
Responding to the issue of the Fall Armyworm, Dr Clottey explained that both CABI and IITA have confirmed the presence of the pest in Ghana, Nigeria, Sao Tomé, Benin, Togo and parts of Burkina Faso. He also added that CABI has carried out molecular analysis of samples picked from Ghana and can confirm that there are two haplotypes of the Fall Armyworm (that is, each having a set of genetic materials inherited together) and they feed on cereals and broad-leaf plants. Speaking on how the worm thrives, Dr Clottey said, “as long as there is humidity and some vegetation, they are able to survive by migrating to other crops when maize and rice are out of season. Since these conditions persist in the sub-region, we are in for a long haul with this pest so we need a concerted action to bring it under control.”
In response, the ECOWAS Commissioner admitted that the Fall Armyworm incidence is a real threat to the agricultural sector in West Africa and a great concern to his Commission. Mr Ayassor further indicated the need for a comprehensive regional programme to be put in place to urgently tackle not only the Fall Armyworm but also other prevalent plant pests ravaging crops in the ECOWAS region. The Director for Agriculture, Mr Alain Sy Traoré added that, “once we have enough information on the nature, mode of spread and reproduction of the worm, a multi-stakeholder meeting should be convened at the earliest possible time to work out an effective integrated regional action plan to help deal with the menace before it escalates into a crisis”.
Dr Clottey thanked the ECOWAS delegation for recognizing CABI as an organization that works in partnerships to tackle problems relating to agriculture and environment in West Africa. He used the occasion to enlighten the delegates on the history, operational themes and project portfolio of CABI. Dr Clottey also seized the opportunity to inform them about plans to extend the Plantwise programme to other West African countries such as Cote d’Ivoire, in addition to the three countries – Ghana, Sierra Leone and Burkina Faso – where it already operates.