Stakeholders have developed a strategy and action plan for the management of invasive species (IS) in Ghana.
An IS is an organism that causes ecological or economic harm in a new environment where it is not native.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Centre for Agriculture and Biosciences International (CABI), and the Plant Protection and Regulatory Services Division (PPRSD), following experiences from the fall armyworm (FAW) and other IS thought it appropriate to come out with an action plan through which they can scan the horizon for the imminent species.
The EPA is spearheading the move to nib in the bud some of the organisms that threaten the country.
Dubbed the ‘National Invasive Species Strategy and Action Plan (NISSAP), it would address problems associated with the occurrence of invasive species (IS).
The NISSAP, which is aligned with the guidelines for invasive species (IS) management globally, identifies the key strategies and actions that need to be undertaken to effectively manage or reduce the impacts of IS.
Dr Victor Attuquaye Clottey, the Regional Representative for CABI, at the maiden meeting of the technical working group that will see to the implementation of the action plan, said the strategy was not only for plants and animals on land but also for those in the aquatic environment.
It will also include microorganisms that will be harmful to the country’s plants and animals.
He said the technical working group would explore ways to bring all stakeholders on board, including people in the hospitality industry, who bring in flowers that could carry organisms that can affect the economy in different ways.
“So, it is not just in agriculture but in other areas too,” he said.
He said IS in all ecologies cause havoc to the economy in different ways, including human and animal health and they also affect the environment by colonising it in a way that food and feed resources are lost.
Consequently, funds are redirected to unplanned areas and can cause political upheaval, and at the local level, it can bring social conflicts among community members.
“If we are not proactive, we will find ourselves in dire straits. Leaving these organisms to thrive can cause so many problems to our environment, health and food security. They can also be used against us in biological warfare and that is why we should take it seriously.”
“We also realised the need for a team of different stakeholders to be involved so that the different institutions they represent can implement the action plan by bringing in all the actors whose works are affected directly or indirectly by IS.” he said.
The Deputy Executive Director (Technical) of the EPA, Mr Ebenezer Appah-Sampong, said it was unfortunate that the issue of IS is only talked about when there is a calamity, and said it was about time to move from firefighting and be more strategic in responding to some of these issues.
“The NISSAP is important so we need to work together to ensure its implementation. We must be ready at all times and have a response system in place so that if it is FAW, we are there and know what to do and who is doing what,” he said.
He said the issue of resources is also critical such that it was necessary to mainstream it in the individual sectoral activities.
Invasive Species Manager at CABI, Dr Lakpo Agboyi, said the CABI Action on Invasives (AoI) programme began in January 2018 and it is being implemented in selected African countries (Ghana, Kenya, Rwanda, Burkina Faso and Zambia), and seeks to address the complex problem of IS worldwide.
He noted that there is a rapid spread of IS as a result of increased global trade, travels, and also climate change.
Currently, the impact of IS is estimated at over US$1 trillion annually. They are often detected in the late stage and that gives them opportunity to spread rapidly and cause serious problems in different countries.
Thus, he said, the programme aims to strengthen the capacity of the different countries and stakeholders to deal with invasive species, while collaborating with regional, national and local stakeholders from various sectors for an integrated framework to address the problem of IS.
CABI AoI programme adopts a three-prong approach of defending, detecting and defeating to manage IS.
It involves the development and implementation of policy to prevent the arrival of IS and create awareness at the local level, build capacity to develop and implement surveillance and emergency action plans for early detection and eradication of new invasives, and implement control and restoration mechanisms by scaling up existing IS management solutions available locally in the countries.
Dr Agboyi noted that the FAW is currently the main challenge that countries need to overcome as it poses a serious threat to food security.
“We have done a lot already and have started to implement area-wide management strategies of FAW in Ghana. We recognise that overcoming the problem of FAW becomes more challenging if farmers take action as individuals and hence, the introduction of the concept of area-wide management of the pest.
‘As we are working at the high level, it is also good to develop community action against IS such as the FAW,” he added.