- Fera initiates a Pest Risk Analysis for 'cassava intended for planting' in East Africa
Fera initiates a Pest Risk Analysis for 'cassava intended for planting' in East AfricaResponding to the emerging threat of Cassava Brown Streak Disease (CBSD), Fera has been asked by Catholic Relief Services, managers of the Great Lakes Cassava Initiative (GLCI), to help in determining the risks associated with the causal virus of CBSD and cassava intended for planting.
In what feels like a contest with the virus, the GLCI is set to distribute vast amounts of improved cassava material for planting to farmers in 6 East African countries, but must counter the threat presented by this beguiling and rapidly spreading virus. And the concern is heighten by the recent memory of Cassava Mosaic Disease (CMD), another virus that has been devastating since its emergence in the early 1990s until resistance was bred for, and improved cultivars were released. Currently no commercial resistance is available to CBSD, and thus projects such as the GLCI that aim to release these CMD resistant materials must do so responsibly, mindful of the need not to spread CBSD any further.
Against this background the decision was made to develop a Pest Risk Analysis (PRA) for cassava material intended for planting, focusing on the distribution area of the GLCI. Accordingly, experts from Fera met in Nairobi with national plant protection and research representatives from Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi, DR Congo, Tanzania and Uganda to agree on the scope and process to develop the PRA. In what proved a highly successful meeting, clear consensus was reached on the importance of developing the PRA as a central document of reference. Fera’s Julian Smith explains: ‘This PRA will form the first scientific evidence base for the GLCI, and hopefully other similarly aimed initiatives, that will guide decisions as to the suitability of cassava material for distribution and planting. It will also help identify current gaps in knowledge, and help focus research and policy agendas in the region.’
This work builds on Fera’s previous success in facilitating a PRA for Banana Xanthomonas Wilt, and together it forms part of Fera's advocacy for more support to be given to our African counterparts in areas of preparedness against future pest threats. This will mean that farm systems are more resilient, and farmers more assured when making investment, that major outbreaks of pests will occur less frequently than they do today.
9th July 2009