By Duncan Mboyah (Senior Science Correspondent)

The International Centre for Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE) has received a grant of  Euros 5.5 million to upscale the management of Fall Armyworm (FAW) in five eastern Africa nations – Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Ethiopia and Rwanda,  The FAW was first reported in Nigeria in January 2016 and has spread at an alarming rate across at least 28 African countries.

ICIPE’s director general Dr. Segenet Kelemu said that the EU grant will help ensure that the technology helps countries achieve their food security plans. “Africa stands to benefit from the technology because it helps in reducing pesticide use and conserving the environment,” Dr Kelemu explained.

Bernard Rey, EU Deputy Head of Rural Development, Food Security and Nutrition Unit said that the grant will be used by ICIPE in up-scaling the Centre’s push and pull technology in managing FAW.

“The technology has proved successful in managing the ravaging pest that has worsened food insecurity in the Eastern Africa region and the rest of Sub Saharan Africa,” he noted during a meeting with ICIPE officials in Nairobi.

Rey says that the EU is concerned with the food situation in the region given that FAW mainly prefer maize, sorghum, millet, vegetables and other crops that form the food basket of the region.

Researchers at ICIPE announced their break through research last November saying that the push and pull technology is capable of controlling or managing the ravaging pest that has worsened food insecurity in Africa. They said that the new technology is providing a suitable, accessible, environmentally friendly and cost-effective strategy for management of the pest.

The push and pull technology involves intercropping cereal crops with for example insect repellent legumes in the Desmodium genus, and planting an attractive forage plant such as Napier grass as a border around this intercrop. The intercrop emits a blend of compounds that repel away stem borer moths, while the border plants emit bio-chemicals that are attractive to the pests.

It was originally developed for the control of stem borers, the key pests of cereal crops across most of Africa, and the parasitic Striga weeds.

ICIPE’s Principal Scientist Professor Zeyaur Khan reveals that the pest is a destructive moth that causes devastating damage to almost 100 plant species and threatens food and nutritional security, trade and economies of the countries.

He emphasized that ICIPE has the capacity including personnel to up-scale the technology needed in helping keep farmers in the business.

“From our study, farmers who apply push-pull technology have reported that their farms were free of FAW infestation while neighboring mono-crop plots were being ravaged by the pest,” Dr. Khan who heads the research said.