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An emergency response plan for managing incursions of Invasive Alien Pests (IAPs) in Ghana has been validated at a stakeholder workshop organized by CABI in collaboration with the Plant Protection and Regulatory Services Directorate (PPRSD) of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The workshop, held at the CSIR-Science and Technology Policy Research Institute (CSIR-STEPRI), brought together representatives from key plant health stakeholders and members of the Technical Working Group of the National Invasive Species Strategy and Action Plan (NISSAP) such as the EPA, the Biotechnology and Nuclear Agriculture Research Institute (BNARI), University of Ghana, Forestry Commission-Wildlife and Forest Services Divisions, Fisheries Commission and the PPRSD. The meeting was to enable these stakeholders validate the content of a draft IAP response document for publication and dissemination.

As part of the collaborative work with PPRSD on the global Action on Invasives programme, CABI is helping to build capacity and equip stakeholders with the appropriate knowledge resources in the management of IAPs. Through this collaboration, a discussion was held with PPRSD in 2018 on the need to develop an emergency response plan for the management of IAPs in the wake of increasing incidence of invasive pests in the country over the last few decades.

Ghana has experienced the invasion of a number IAPs since the early 1980s. These include the Larger grain borer (Prostephanus truncatus), mango bacterial black spot (Xanthomonas citri pv mangiferaindicae), papaya mealybug (Paracoccus marginatus), Cassava mealybug (Phenacoccus manihoti), Cassava green mite (Mononychellus tanajoa) with the most recent introductions being the fall armyworm (Spodoptera frugiperda) and the South American tomato leaf miner (Tuta (Phthorimaea) absoluta). The situation has mainly been attributed to increased travel, trade, tourism and other climate-related factors such as changes in temperature, humidity and atmospheric gases. These climatic changes are seen to be reducing natural barriers for pests, altering their interaction with plants and beneficial organisms and creating favourable conditions for their survival in new environments.

Research has shown that the introduction and establishment of IAPs in new areas usually result in significant economic, social, agricultural and biodiversity losses. Specific impacts include trade restrictions and loss of export markets, a threat to food security and loss of rural livelihoods among others.

In spite of these real threats that IAPs pose to the social, economic and environmental wellbeing of the country, responses to past invasions have been ad-hoc, uncoordinated and untimely. It is to address these shortcomings that CABI engaged with PPRSD and other key collaborators such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to develop and make available to all relevant stakeholders an effective and fit-for-purpose emergency response plan for IAPs to effectively deal with future outbreaks and minimise their impact.

The document gives guidelines on the prevention of the occurrence of IAPs and ensuring rapid and effective response to any incidence which has the potential to cause major economic and/or environmental impact. It also provides a framework for deliberation, evaluation and research necessary to ensure early detection, eradication, containment and management of IAPs and effective and timely management interventions. The implementation of the plan will be done through an Emergency Pest Response Team (EPRT) organized around four key thematic areas namely: planning, coordination and resource mobilization; awareness creation and communication; surveillance and research; management, monitoring and assessment.

Highlighting the importance of such a document for the country, the head of the Pest Management Division of PPRSD, Mr Copperfield Banini indicated that it was high time and very critical for Ghana to have this response plan in place given the key lessons the country has learnt from the FAW incidence.

In the opening remarks at the workshop, Dr Lakpo Koku Agboyi, representing the CABI-WAC Regional Representative underscored the importance of the workshop as a timely step in helping Ghana cope with IAPs effectively. He used the occasion to reiterate CABI’s readiness to assist other countries in developing and implementing such initiatives against invasive species to reduce crop losses, promote safe trade of agriculture commodities and food security.

With its content reviewed and duly validated by stakeholders, the document has been approved for finalization and production. It will serve as a useful reference and guide for preventing the entry of IAPs into the country and coping with outbreaks to minimize their impact on agriculture, forestry and biodiversity in the country.

It is hoped that similar response plans would be developed for the fisheries and veterinary sectors to comprehensively address the problem of invasive species in the various ecosystems and sectors.