The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA), Tuesday signed a $459,000 Technical Cooperation Programme (TCP) project agreement on integrated pest management on whitefly.
The agreement is in response to a request from The Gambia Government for help to strengthen national capacity and knowledge to effectively control the whitefly. The signing was held at the MoA in Banjul.
Sheriffo Bojang the Deputy Minister of Agriculture said the spiraling whiteflies have presently the status of obligatory natives of the country, but unwanted in every respect. He stressed that this is because many fruits, shade and ornamental plants have been devastated by whiteflies and many vegetables have also been destroyed by them, adding that the agricultural industries continue to be at serious economic threat because of these pests.
He added that the project is timely in order to help check the further spread and destruction of these flies, which are causing significant economic losses to horticulture, especially in the West Coast and North Bank Regions of the country. He disclosed that the TCP is consistent with the country’s medium-term plans on poverty reduction and food security as enshrined in the poverty reduction strategy paper 2 (PRSP2), The Gambia National Agriculture Investment Plan (GNAIP) and other strategic development blueprints of The Gambia.
Bojang said his Ministry has the ability and capacity to implement this urgently needed and productive TCP and to this end he assured the FAO that his Ministry is fully poised not only to provide qualified personnel from plant protection services but to also to make available offices, transport and other infrastructures to the project.
Dr Perpetua Katepa-Kalala, the FAO Country Representative disclosed that the whitefly which is thought to have originated from Central America and the Caribbean is now widespread in West Africa and is devastating fruit trees, vegetables and ornamental plants in The Gambia resulting in economic loss to farmers and communities and threatening the food security of the country.
The whitefly, she went on, is a tiny moth-like insect just 1-2 mm in size that sucks plants sap, producing black soot on the plant, causing infection of the plant with viral, bacterial and fungal diseases. She added that, infested plants are stunted and unproductive, ultimately resulting in the death of the plant.
According to her, there is high risk that the insect pest will spread to new locations in the country and to neighbouring countries if preventive measures are not swiftly put in place. She affirmed FAO’s commitment to assist the Plant Protection Service of the MoA in the successful implementation of TCP and to this end they have already engaged a pool of experts from the FAO Headquarters and the regional office for who will be ready to provide hands-on technical support to enhance the technical capacity of the plant protection service.
by Fatou Sowe