In response to the growing threat of invasive species, CABI has called for urgent action to tackle the global spread of invasive species, even as the recent fall armyworm outbreak casts doubts over Africa and Asia’s preparedness to fight the scourge. CABI is a not-for-profit organisation that draws on scientific expertise to solve problems in agriculture and the environment.

The call was made at the 2018 Africa Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) in Kigali, Rwanda, by CABI’s Director General for Development, Dr Dennis Rangi. His announcement follows publication of CABI’s insights paper: Invasive Species: The hidden threat to sustainable development at AGRF and this year’s launch of CABI’s Action on Invasives programme.

The ultimate goal of the programme is to enable developing countries to prevent or detect and control invasive species in order to protect and restore agricultural and natural ecosystems, reduce crop losses, improve health, remove trade barriers and reduce degradation of natural resources, infrastructure and vulnerable areas.

‘We are falling behind, and progress is currently too slow to achieve the ambitious targets set by the international community. If we do not accelerate progress on these critical issues, further outbreaks cannot be prevented,’ says Dr Rangi. ‘We believe the international community needs a renewed commitment to implementing change and investing in measures that will help countries become better prepared to handle the impact of any new invasive species outbreak.’

The organisation has recommended three key areas for urgent action:

  • National strategy and planning – every country must have an invasive species strategy and action plan in place by 2020 including a national priority list identifying their highest outbreak risks and targeting national efforts accordingly
  • Increased investment in tackling invasive species – making this a cross-government priority and an integral component of development projects to help fund important initiatives like the need to harness big data
  • Lower risk management methods – development of policy/regulation that encourages the use of lower risk management methods (biocontrol, Integrated Pest Management (IPM)

The Action on Invasives programme has already been piloted on specific species in Ghana and Pakistan, with support and funding from the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) and the Netherlands’ Directorate-General for International Cooperation (DGIS). It is now being scaled up so that people around the world can fulfil their potential and help their countries prosper.

The fall armyworm – a moth indigenous to the Americas – has been spreading rapidly across Africa since 2016. It has also been recently found in India, giving rise to fears for the food security of millions of people across Asia.

While just 12 African countries had confirmed the presence of fall armyworm a year ago, today there are over 40 African countries infected by the pest.

It is estimated that the fall armyworm in Africa has the potential to cause maize yield losses of up to 20.6 million tonnes per annum in just 12 of Africa’s maize-producing countries. This represents nearly 53% of annual production. The value of these losses is estimated to be up to US$6.2 billion. This is despite the fact that maize is the most important staple cereal crop grown by smallholders in sub-Saharan Africa and is the dominant cereal grown in most other African countries.

In Africa, fall armyworm is best known for eating maize, but the caterpillar has a voracious appetite and is known to eat 186 plant species from 42 families, including rice, sorghum and sugarcane, as well as cabbage, beet, peanut, soybean, alfalfa, onion, cotton, pasture grasses, millet, tomato, potato and cotton.

‘CABI believes the Action on Invasive programme will contribute to improving people’s livelihoods and food security, as well as countries’ trade opportunities and commitment to environmental protection. This in turn will support the United Nations’ SDGs, the International Plant Protection Convention and the Convention on Biological Diversity. CABI is asking the global community to commit to reducing the impact of invasive species and we invite everyone to support the Action on Invasives programme in any way they can,’ explains Dr Rangi.

About CABI

CABI is an international not-for-profit organisation that improves people’s lives by providing information and applying scientific expertise to solve problems in agriculture and the environment.

Through knowledge sharing and science, CABI helps address issues of global concern such as improving global food security and safeguarding the environment. We do this by helping farmers grow more and lose less of what they produce, combating threats to agriculture and the environment from pests and diseases, protecting biodiversity from invasive species, and improving access to agricultural and environmental scientific knowledge. Our 49 member countries guide and influence our core areas of work, which include development and research projects, scientific publishing and microbial services.

We gratefully acknowledge the core financial support from our member countries and lead agencies including the United Kingdom (Department for International Development), China (Chinese Ministry of Agriculture), Australia (Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research), Canada (Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada), Netherlands (Directorate-General for International Cooperation), and Switzerland (Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation). Other sources of funding include the fees paid by our member countries and profits from our publishing activities which enable CABI to support rural development and scientific research around the world.

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