Learning from plant protection regulatory data and fall armyworm in Africa
By Esther Ngumbi
Fueled by climate change and global trade, the threat from invasive pests to countries in which the pests were not present or previously reported will continue to increase, with many sub-Saharan African (SSA) countries expected to be the most vulnerable. Reliable pest management and robust pest control at country borders are critical and go hand in hand with strong agricultural and agribusiness sectors. Strong plant protection regulatory frameworks have an important role to play to facilitate safe trade and help safeguard agriculture. As countries build these regulatory frameworks, they need data and information to drive decision-making. This post explores findings from a technical note funded by USAID’s Office of Market and Partnership Innovations which examined plant protection data available through the World Bank’s Enabling the Business of Agriculture Index for Feed the Future focus countries and countries in SSA. We take a particular look at its relevance for the current Fall Armyworm outbreak in Africa and strengthening plant protection systems in the future.
Recap on Fall Armyworm in Africa
Africa continues to battle an outbreak of invasive, transboundary pests including the Fall Armyworm (FAW). This pest was first reported in mainland West Africa (Nigeria, Togo, Benin) and on the island of Sao Tome in early 2016 and is now confirmed in many African countries, including several Feed the Future countries: Ethiopia, Kenya, Mali, Nigeria and Senegal. FAW in Africa has caused significant damage to maize crops in particular. According to a 2017 report by Day et al., annual economic losses in 12 maize-producing African countries (Benin, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, Uganda, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe) are estimated to be between $2.5 and $6.2 billion. Invasion by FAW will further impact international trade, since countries where the pest has not yet been detected are expected to place additional production or handling requirements on exports from FAW-affected countries. Affected countries in Africa are prioritizing immediate and long-term solutions to mitigate and contain the devastating impacts of FAW. To learn more about this issue, check out a recent article here.
World Bank’s Enabling the Business of Agriculture
The World Bank’s Enabling the Business of Agriculture (EBA) 2017 data, collected across 62 countries, provides important and timely inputs for policymakers as well as private and public sector actors across agricultural and agribusiness value chains. Launched in 2013, the EBA datasets measure and score the strength of the legal and institutional environment for agribusinesses. In 2017, this included 62 economies scored across eight topic indicators including: seed, fertilizer, machinery, finance, markets, transport, water, and information and communications technology.  It can support the identification of barriers that impede agricultural sector regulation and growth and provide a way to benchmark, track, and monitor progress and reforms made by countries over time. A subset of the markets data included a Plant Protection Index. For more information, check out the EBA methodology and consult the technical note on Plant Protection Data in Action for a closer look at the EBA Plant Protection Index analysis for Feed the Future focus countries and SSA.
Plant Protection System Strengthening for Prevention and Response to Fall Armyworm in Africa
Many African countries, research institutions, aid organizations, and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN have been on the frontlines addressing the FAW invasion. They have implemented many immediate solutions, including ramping up efforts to rapidly identify pests, assess its geographic extent, create awareness, and initiate control responses and measures to contain outbreaks. However, owing to their short-term nature, many of these actions will cease when the pest is no longer considered invasive. And many of these efforts are challenged by the fact that they can only go so far given the limitations of the enabling environment. The data provided through EBA offers important contextual information that could be used to direct multipronged response options and to tailor and prioritize optimal response options for the current enabling environment in a given country.
Moving forward, Feed the Future and SSA countries must strengthen their national plant protection regulatory frameworks to effectively deal with future invasive and transboundary pests and pathogens. By implementing recommended best practices such as rigorous pest surveillance, pest risk analysis and updated lists of quarantined pests, countries can strengthen their plant protection regulation frameworks and their ability to deal with future invasive and transboundary pests.
Illustrative Data-Driven Actions to Strengthen Plant Protection Systems
The following actions were identified as ways African countries can utilize available data and best practices:
- Designate a national plant protection unit that will set national standards, guidelines and protocols to implement the phytosanitary systems; conduct pest and plant surveillance; enforce border inspections of plant consignments; create and maintain updated lists of regulated and quarantine pests; and make these lists available to the public and other stakeholders.
- Produce yearly reports of the progress African countries make toward improving the key weaknesses identified and increasing their plant protection index scores.
- Hold annual or biannual regional technical training workshops. These workshops — facilitated by IPPC staffers together with experts from countries that have strong plant regulatory frameworks — could bring together national plant protection employees, border control staffers and research/university scientists.
- The World Bank, in partnership with the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) and stakeholders like USAID, to create regional online repositories to host resources, tools and other information, including pest identification manuals, lists of regulated quarantine pests, pest databases, border inspection manuals, and any other materials that is related to plant pests including regulated and quarantined pests.
- Create harmonized regional protocols and procedures and further establish regional pest diagnostic labs to help in the diagnostics of key regulated pests.
- Build pest databases by major crop with accompanying pictures of the listed insects, their host information, life cycle, distribution, current status and available recommended control measures.
- Allocate enough funding and resources to designated national agencies, so that they can rigorously and effectively carry out comprehensive pest surveillance. Furthermore, countries should develop coherent and coordinated dissemination of information about pests within and between countries.
- Create lists of regulated quarantine pests and upload them both on a national plant protection agency website and the IPPC website.
- Countries and national plant protection agencies must obligate landowners to report pest and pest outbreaks, and there must be penalties for failing to comply.