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Some members of the technical working group on invasive species
Some members of the technical working group on invasive species

Action plan to deal with invasive species developed

A strategy and action plan for the management of invasive species in Ghana, known as the ‘National Invasive Species Strategy and Action Plan (NISSAP), has been developed to address problems associated with the occurrence of invasive species (IS).

An IS is an organism that causes ecological or economic harm in a new environment where it is not native.

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.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Centre for Agriculture and Biosciences International (CABI), and the Plant Protection and Regulatory Services Division (PPRSD), under the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, following experiences from the fall armyworm (FAW) and other IS thought it appropriate to come out with an action plan through which they could scan the horizon for the imminent species.
Read:We’ve learnt from FAW

The EPA is spearheading the move to nip in the bud some of the organisms that threaten the country.

In an interview at the maiden meeting of the technical working group that would see to the implementation of the action plan on IS in Accra, the Regional Representative for CABI, Dr Victor Attuquaye Clottey, said the above would not only be for plants and animals on land but also for those in aquatic environment (inland fresh and marine waters). It will also include microorganisms that will be harmful to our plants and animals.

He said it would also look at how to bring all stakeholders on board because people in hospitality industry for instance bring in flowers that carry organisms that could affect our economy in different ways.  

“So, it is not just in agriculture but other areas too. The Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation (MESTI) at that moment is putting through a policy on biodiversity and what was lacking was the IS issue. The suggestion was to rather have a strategy and action plan which becomes an addendum to that document,” he said.

He explained that IS in all ecologies caused havoc to the economy in different ways-human / animal health are affected, 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.  
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“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.

Through that, he said, methodologies and tools could be shared without reinventing the wheel, while they worked together to attract funds, “so that we know what contingencies to put in place when we are threatened by any of the invasive species.”
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Challenge of invasive species

The Deputy Executive Director (Technical) of the EPA, Mr Ebenezer Appah-Sampong, said it was unfortunate that the issue of IS was only talked about when there was 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 was also critical such that it was necessary to mainstream it in the individual sectoral activities.

Invasive species project

Invasive Species Manager at CABI, Dr Lakpo Agboyi, said the CABI Action on Invasives (AoI) programme began in January 2018 and it was being implemented in selected African countries (Ghana, Kenya, Rwanda, Burkina Faso and Zambia), and sought to address the complex problem of IS worldwide.

It is also being implemented in South Asia (Pakistan and Bangladesh).

He noted that there was a rapid spread of IS brought about by increased global trade, travels and also climate change.  

He said IS has become a serious economic problem with their impact 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 is a system-based approach to manage IS through three strategies, namely: defend – develop and implement policy to prevent the arrival of IS and create awareness at the local level, detect – build capacity to develop and implement surveillance and emergency action plans for early detection and eradication of new invasives, and defeat – implement control and restoration mechanisms by scaling up existing IS management solutions available locally in the countries,” he stated.

Dr Agboyi noted that the FAW was currently the main challenge that countries needed to overcome as it posed 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.

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