Fighting Against Plant Pests & Diseases in West and Central Africa

  • The impact of pests and emerging diseases on agricultural production is becoming alarming.
  • The Biorisks project will prevent the escalation of these major constraints and contribute to food and nutrition security.
  • Funded by the European Union, it will be implemented by CORAF and WAVE Program.

West and Central African research and development actors met recently in a virtual ceremony to launch a new project designed to tackle emerging plant pests and diseases sustainably.

The Anticipate and Manage Biological Risks to Strengthen Farmers’ Resilience to Climate Change in West and Central Africa (Biorisks) is a new five-year (2020-2024) intervention funded by the European Union. It is implemented by CORAF and the Central and West African Virus Epidemiology for food security (WAVE), hosted by the Félix Houphouët-Boigny University of Abidjan in Côte d’Ivoire.

The project was primarily set up to respond to the recent upsurge of plant pests and diseases such as the cassava mosaic disease (CMD), cassava brown streak disease (CBSD), fall armyworm (FAW), and fruit flies.

Experts say these pests and diseases have the potential to seriously compromise the food and nutritional security of millions of people in West and Central Africa.

“The harmfulness of certain pests and emerging diseases, whose occurrences are due to climate change, is an essential fact that must be taken into account in our common fight for productive and sustainable agriculture. This is probably the only way you can meet the growing demand for food,” said Dr. Abdou Tenkouano, Executive Director of CORAF, at the launch of the Biorisks project. The event was held online from October 6 – 7, 2020.

“We need to protect African farmers. This is why the Biorisks project is crucial. It will help farmers anticipate and manage these biological risks,” said Prof. Justin Pita, Executive Director of the WAVE Program.

Birorisks aims to contribute to poverty reduction and food and nutritional security in Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Gabon, Ghana, Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sierra Leone, and Togo.

The expected outcome of the project is the improvement of food productivity. It is also to stabilize yields and the income of the main staple and fruit crops.

“These pests and diseases are at the center of deteriorating yields of cassava, maize, and other fruits,” said the Deputy Director-General of the National Agronomic Research Centre (CNRA), Prof. Abdourahamane Sangaré who is one of the architects of the Biorisks project.

Cote d’Ivoire ranks 3rd among West African cassava-producing countries, after Nigeria and Ghana, with around 5 million tonnes in 2018.

What are the Expected Results?

Following are the four main results expected of the project:

Result 1: The implementation of research/development activities and raising awareness of cassava diseases. This result area also targets the inventory of FAW activities and mango flies in West and Central Africa.

Result 2: An effective surveillance, early warning, and monitoring system for cassava virus diseases, FAW, and mango flies are established in West and Central Africa.

Result 3: The capacities of actors and institutions in West and Central Africa are strengthened in cassava virus diseases.

Result 4: Policies on cross-border regulations on cassava virus disease management are harmonized.

Small scale producers, extension agents, government officials, policymakers from Regional Economic Communities, researchers from national programs, the Biorisk Management Facility (BIMAF), are the primary target groups of this project.

The Brorisks project will also mainstream gender, youth, social, and environmental issues throughout its lifespan.