Ministry of Agriculture, FAO Join Forces to Combat Whitefly Infestation

Ministry of Agriculture, FAO Join Forces to Combat Whitefly Infestation




The Ministry of Agriculture and the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) have joined forces in an initiative to eliminate infestation of the white flies in The Gambia.

The Technical Cooperation Programme agreement recently signed between the Government of The Gambia and FAO in August 2016 is designed among other things to strengthen national capacity and knowledge to effectively control the whiteflies in an environmentally friendly manner.

Whiteflies infect fruit trees, ornamental plants and vegetables with devastating effects on productivity, appearance and in severe cases lead to the death of the plants.

Coming hard on the heels of the agreement, an inception workshop on integrated pest management on whitefly was convened at a local hotel on Wednesday 21st September 2016. The one-day programme brought together key stakeholders such as agricultural experts, regional governors and farmers across the country to discuss the issue.

The event was graced by the Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Mr. Sheriffo Bojang. In his remarks, he noted whiteflies, particularly the spiraling whiteflies, are alien pests in this country, and their population is currently massive.

“Their occurrence and spread have reached an undesirable proportion that appropriate actions should be taken against them to defend and protect our consumers in this country and elsewhere,” he said. “Growers of horticultural crops, ornamentals and shade trees, are in dire need of assistance in the fight against these whiteflies.”

Historical origins & infested regions

The spiraling whitefly, a native of the Caribbean region and Central America, was first observed in Florida by Russell in 1957. In 1992, it was discovered in Continental Africa with a severe outbreak reported in Nigeria and later also reported in other West African countries, including The Gambia.

The Deputy Minister pointed out that the Plant Protection Services (PPS) of the Department of Agriculture has observed these pests in numerous fruit trees, shades, ornamentals and vegetables everywhere in the country, particularly in the West Coast and North Bank Regions. Project activities will thus be concentrated on these two highly infested regions.

Strengthening capacity

Speaking on behalf of the FAO Representative in the country, Mariatou Njie said FAO has provided the sum of 20.4 million dalasi to support the Ministry of Agriculture to conduct this TCP on integrated pest management on the whitefly. She said during the next 18 months, the Plant Protection Services will conduct surveillance and control of the whitefly. Mrs Njie noted that the project objectives are fully aligned to the Gambia’s development priorities, including the Agriculture and Natural Resource policy, the Vision 2025, the GNAIP, the SDGs as well as the United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF) for The Gambia.

“The project fits well with FAO’s first global strategic objective which is to help eliminate hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition, and its second strategic objective: Making agriculture more productive and sustainable,” she said.

She further pointed out that at the level of the FAO Country Programming Framework the project is in line with the first priority: Improvement of Agriculture Production and Commercialisation for Sustainable and Inclusive Growth and Food Security and Nutrition.

The FAO Assistant Representative noted that her office has in the past enjoyed successful collaboration with the Plant Protection Service of the Ministry of Agriculture. She recalled during the 2004-2005 locust invasion, FAO provided equipment, vehicles and hired an aircraft to control the pest. Most recently, she added, the FAO supported the strengthening of the national phyto-sanitary capacity of The Gambia.

For his part, the Governor of the North Bank Region, Alhaji Lamin Quin Jammeh shared his personal experience with the whitefly infestation in his community garden, and how the whiteflies are slowly destroying the plants. He thanked the FAO for what he described as a timely intervention to salvage the situation facing affected farmers in his region.

by Ebrima Baldeh, GRTS