ZIMBABWE – Zimbabwean small scale farmers are set to benefit from a US$500 000 disease and pest surveillance project from Japan and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).
The project which was handed over to the government is expected to strengthen the capacity of small-scale farmers to fight Avian flu and the fall armyworm.
According to a report by the Herald, the project- which started last year- was funded by Japan while FAO worked directly with the Government on the implementation phase.
The project will enable the departments of Crop and Livestock and Veterinary Services to rapidly respond to the outbreaks of the fall armyworm and the highly pathogenic Avian influenza.
The project has provided an active surveillance system consisting of two Real Time Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) machines that will be used for the rapid detection of influenza viruses.
Additionally, 340 Government extension officers will be provided with electronic gadgets equipped with monitoring and early warning system for the fall armyworm pest.
Speaking during the handover ceremony, Japanese Ambassador to Zimbabwe Mr Toshiyuki Iwado said that the project aims to protect the agricultural sector which support a majority of the population in the country.
“Given the vital role that agriculture plays in the lives of most Zimbabweans, it is necessary to protect their livelihoods and food security.
It is of utmost importance that authorities, farmers and the public are aware of the outbreak or suspected outbreak as soon as it occurs,” Mr Toshiyuki said.
Additionally, Mr Alain Onibon, FAO Sub-Regional Coordinator for Southern Africa hailed Japan’s support in the project adding that FAO experts will continue to offer technical assistance to the respective to enhance effective surveillance of fall armyworm and Avian influenza.
“As we know, the poultry sector is highly dependent on maize grain as the major ingredient of commercial stockfeeds, and yet the fall armyworm is threatening the yields of maize in Zimbabwe,” said Mr Onibon.
This comes as part of efforts to protect the sector which saw the country cull more than two million birds after an outbreak of the bird flu disease in 2017.
Moreover, in 2018, the fall armyworm infested more than 15 000 hectares of maize crop which posed a great threat to the nation’s food stock.
The project has seen 500 Government extension officers across the country receive training and 500 000 small-scale farmers are set to be capacitated to cope with the threats.