KAMPALA – Experts from the Food and Agriculture Organisation Sub-regional Office for Eastern Africa (FAO SFE), the Intergovernmental Authority for Development (IGAD), as well as global actors on biological controls have convened in Kampala to explore opportunities for reducing constraints to the uptake of biological control and the use of biologicals for management of pests of plants in Eastern Africa.
These say that crop losses due to pests are increasing at an alarming rate, necessitating the use of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) strategies that are environmentally friendly and sustainable. They say that the use of biological control agents is by far the most ecosystem-friendly, sustainable and cost-effective method of pest management.
The use of biological control and biologicals in pest management in agricultural production is an approach to reducing the use of synthetic chemical pesticides and the associated adverse effects on human health and the environment.
Experts, however, say the uptake and use of biological pest control measures are constrained by various factors that need to be addressed to realize its potential in Eastern Africa, including; Inadequate knowledge and awareness, the lack of appropriate infrastructure and resources to support the implementation of biological control, the presence of complex agro-ecological systems in Eastern Africa, and the weak regulatory frameworks hence the workshop.
Mr. Chimimba David Phiri – FAO Coordinator for Eastern Africa noted that the sub-region has in the past years faced several invasions and new introductions of pests of plants.
“We gather here to discuss ways of managing such pests in an ecologically sustainable and environment-friendly way through biological control and the use of biopesticides.”
He noted that embracing ecological approaches to crop production will enhance food and nutrition security, and safeguard environmental health through the use of environment-friendly plant protection practices.
Mr. Chimimba expressed fear of the current methods of pest control which continue to pose significant challenges to the efforts made to ensure sustainable food production.
“The continued reliance solely on conventional methods of pest management such as the use of chemical pesticides has proved to be insufficient for prolonged suppression of pest problems. It is also harmful to the environment and human health, making it imperative that we seek alternatives that are environment-friendly and do not pose risks to human health,” he said.
According to him, the adoption of biological control and biopesticides in agricultural production is an approach that harnesses the power of nature itself to manage pests of plants.
To overcome constraints, FAO calls for prioritization of the creation of awareness about biological control and biopesticides to relevant stakeholders; development of the capacity to ensure effective uptake of these technologies in agricultural production; research and development in the area of biological control of high-priority pests, especially under field conditions, and improving regulatory frameworks for biocontrol products in the SFE countries
Mr Antonio Querido – FAO Representative in Uganda said that pests and diseases in crops, whose incidence and severity are compounded by climate change, present severe limitations to food availability, better nutrition and livelihoods for many farming households in Uganda.
Represented by Dr. Charles Owach, the Assistant FAO Representative in charge of programmes, Antonio noted that outbreaks from endemic pests and invasion by transboundary pests compel farmers to procure and use inorganic pesticides.
“Importation and use of pesticides for crop pest and disease management are on an upward trend, also driven by the progressive transition from subsistence to commercial agriculture.”
He added, “While synthetic chemical pesticides have a role in agriculture, their use must be rationally based on a sound scientific basis. Otherwise, unlike biological control and biopesticides, they can be costly and harmful to the environment and other life forms, including humans.”
Antonio underscored the need for biological control and biologicals in pest management – not only actors in the agriculture sector but also in the environment and health, among others.
“Considerable efforts are needed to research and promote biological control and bio-rationals. Concerted investment in research on biological control and biopesticides is required. Investment is needed to build extension service providers’ capacity and increase public awareness.”
He also interested the private sector actors in the uptake of agriculture technologies and practices by end users.
Mr. Byantwale Stephen – Ag. Director, Crop Resources at the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries said that engagement is timely and since crop losses due to pests and diseases have continued to impact negatively on trade in plants and plant products including interceptions due to the presence of harmful organisms in the commodities.
He called for prioritization of seed production and breeding support to research, extension support through farmer education and barazas, pest and disease and vector control, market access, support to mechanization and Irrigation and deliberate effort to support fisheries to ensure the sustainable agricultural agenda.