Larval damage on a tomato. This invasive species is destroying the livelihoods of smallholder farmers, causing regions like northern Nigeria to declare a state of emergency.
Photo: © Marja van der Straten, NVWA Plant Protection Service, Bugwood

Scientists gear up to battle invasive species

A research programme to tackle invasive species that kill plants and sicken animals is getting under way at the United Kingdom’s Centre for Agriculture and Bioscience International (CABI).

The UK Centre for Agriculture and Bioscience International (CABI) recently launched a major new initiative to protect vulnerable rural communities in the fight against invasive alien species. Building on its 100-year track record in invasive species management, CABI will deliver a unique global programme to support 50 million vulnerable African and Asian farming families impacted by species that are out of control and threatening their livelihoods.
This will link with, and build upon, the highly successful CABI-ledPlantwise programme, which has already reached nearly 5 million farmers in 34 countries. The programme, worth USD 50 million, aims to find scientific solutions that help farmers to either defeat or adapt to the presence of invasive species. The goal is to tackle the devastating economic impact of such species, estimated to be around USD183 billion in lost crops and revenue in sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and South-East Asia every year.

Species falling into the programme include the tuta absoluta moth — which destroyed crops on 80 per cent of Nigerian tomato farms last year — as well as the parthenium weed, which has invaded grazing lands in Tanzania and Uganda, poisoning livestock and afflicting local people with dermatitis.

“To tackle the global threat of invasive species we need to use proven approaches based on solid science,” said Trevor Nicholls, the chief executive officer of CABI at a conference held in July in London/UK. Nicholls added that, in areas where invasive species are already common, CABI would look for scientific solutions that are environmentally friendly and affordable for poorer communities.

The CABI programme will consist of a three-pronged approach, including spending on research to tackle invasive species, partnerships that put these solutions into practice and the development of a so-called “knowledge bank” to share experiences and research results.

Women and children are particularly involved in weeding the fields

Scientists estimate that in Africa alone, each rural woman spends about 200 hours per year weeding out invasive species from family farms. The same study showed that in rural regions around 70 per cent of school children miss lessons during peak weeding times as they are drafted in to help control invasive species.

According to CABI members at the conference in London, controlling invasive species will play a crucial part in achieving the second Sustainable Development Goal (SDG), which aims to end hunger, achieve food security and improve nutrition.

(SciDev/cabi/wi)

More information:

CABI

Stories of people affected by the damage caused by invasive species