NAIROBI, Kenya- Insect scientists and stakeholders in Africa, wrapped up their two-day meeting in Nairobi on Friday, by resolving to step up networking, to enhance the fight against ravaging Fall Armyworm (FAW) in the region.

The scientists, who attended a high level partnership meeting, on controlling FAW in the region, committed to a coordinated approach towards the fight against the pest, that has so far affected maize farms in 38 countries. "We intend to look at what all countries are doing, copy what is relevant rather than starting fresh and share available practices," the scientists said, in a joint statement released in Nairobi.

The scientists cautioned that maize crop is likely to be wiped off, if swift action is not taken by regional governments, since maize is a staple food crop in the whole region. The scientists noted that they have joined forces against FAW, which is an endemic pest that requires an integrated approach as opposed to individual country's approach.

The scientists tasked International Institute of Tropical Agriculture and International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre with a FAW resistant maize variety, to save the region from unnecessary imports of maize. They, however, cautioned against the use of pesticides, adding, the extensive purchase and distribution of pesticides by many African countries, in their response to this menace, has cost them millions of dollars. They stressed that some of these pesticides often turned out to be highly toxic.

"Such an ad hoc emergency response is not only unsustainable in the long-run but is bound to be damaging to human health, biodiversity and environment," the scientists said.

Abera Haile, entomology specialist with the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, asked the regional countries to scale up FAW control activities, to ensure that countries feed populations by eradicating the growing FAW problem. He called for the empowerment of farming communities so that they could report cases of the pest in time for action. "I believe that we can make a difference through a thorough and planned coordination at both country and regional level," he added.

The meeting was attended by scientists from countries including Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and South Sudan.