IITA, icipe, CABI: Developing a strategy to combat invasive species in Africa

7 March 2018

IITA, together with the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (icipe) and the Centre for Agriculture and Bioscience International (CABI), organized a two-day workshop to develop a comprehensive strategy to deal with invasive species in Africa. The multi-stakeholder event brought together more than 100 participants from across the globe representing research organizations, national institutions, economic communities, the public and private sectors, and donor organizations.

Picture of George Mahuku making a presentation at the Workshop
George Mahuku making a presentation at the Workshop

May-Guri Saethre, IITA’s Deputy Director General, Research for Development, was the co-chair of the workshop’s steering committee and led a team of scientists who are working on invasive species across Africa.

In her opening remarks, Saethre said that invasive species, if left unchecked, will cause irreparable damage to indigenous species and cause the loss of genetic diversity.

“We need to identify the pathways through which invasive species are transmitted and develop preventive measures to reduce their effect and the cost of control,” Saethre pointed out.

She added that IITA has worked on invasive species for more than 40 years, focusing on environment-friendly biocontrol solutions that are easily available to smallholder farmers. Current projects include the Biorisk Management Facility (BIMAF) based in Cotonou, dealing with the infamous Fall Armyworm. Other projects by IITA include research work on fruitfly, banana Bunchy top, Panama Wilt Disease Tropical Race 4 in Mozambique, Banana Xanthomonas Wilt (BXW), and potato cyst nematodes.

The workshop featured presentations from different stakeholders and scientists who have worked on invasive species and focused on the experiences and relative data showing different results and tactics applied in other parts of the world.

Participants were also tasked to examine specific areas including continent-wide coordination efforts; prevention, preparedness, early warning, and rapid response action; research on long-term invasive species management; strengthening the policy and regulatory framework; and capacity building, communication, and outreach.

Scientists from IITA who attended the workshop include Laura Cortada, James Legg, George Mahuku, Lava Kumar, Danny Coyne, and Ghislain Tepa-Yotto.

During the session on solutions to lingering problems of invasive species in Africa chaired by Legg, scientists gave presentations addressing critical gaps in tackling invasive species in Africa. Mahuku, from IITA Tanzania, gave a presentation on the critical research gaps and solutions on safeguarding African crops against invasive species, with an emphasis on stronger partnerships, coordination, communication, and collaboration.

Invasive species in Africa have become a growing concern with studies indicating losses running into billions of dollars annually especially for resource-poor farmers in sub-Saharan Africa. According to a report by CABI in 2016, more than 300 million livelihoods have been disadvantaged by invasive species introduced in new locations accidentally or intentionally.

Others who spoke at the workshop include the icipe Director General Dr Segenet Kelemu and CABI’s Director General for Development Dr Dennis Rangi.

Kelemu reiterated the need to adopt a proactive stance in the fight against invasive species as opposed to the reactive mode, which has been ineffective and costly. Rangi noted that collaboration between IITA, CABI, icipe, and the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) previously have borne remarkable results. He challenged participants to consider even stronger partnerships for efficient and effective results.

The workshop was sponsored by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC).

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