Forging partnerships to tackle invasive species in Ghana's farming communities

In Ghana, pests and diseases cause food and agriculture-related losses valued at USD 1 billion every year, impacting the economy and the livelihoods of smallholder farmers.  Climate change is making the challenge harder to address as warmer temperatures attract more invasive species. So, 11 public and private sector organizations collaboratively developed an Early Warning and Rapid Response System for Pest and Diseases to protect the country's food system. 

A fall armyworm outbreak in Ghana in 2016 led to a maize yield loss of USD 177 million; threatening food security and the livelihood of thousands of maize farmers. 

Fortune Kangur, a 36-year-old maize farmer from Naburnye, a village in Lawra district of Ghana, was one of such farmers.  She says the outbreak was devastating. 

“The loss was severe. It left many maize farmers with nothing to harvest. Before the outbreak, I could harvest eight bags of maize on an acre of land, but I was lucky to get the three and a half bags I harvested that year”, she says.

Zuur Gaetin, a 74-year-old sorghum farmer from the same village says the outbreak plunged farmers into crushing debts and left in its wake hunger, illnesses, and poverty. 

“Many of the farmers who took loans to farm with tractors could not pay the loans. They are still poor and cannot return to their lands”, he says.

Like Fortune, Gaetin’s yields fell significantly. Both  farmers have not fully recovered from their losses seven years after the outbreak. These days, Gaetin is happy to get eight bags per acre. While it is an improvement from the three bags he harvested at the height of the outbreak, it is still two bags less than the ten bags his fields used to produce.  

Gaetin's maize crops are still at the mercy of the fall armyworm seven years after the devastating outbreak

In Ghana, the Plant Protection and Regulatory Services Directorate (PPRSD), an agency under the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA), is mandated to safeguard crops from pests and diseases.

Awudu Gariba, Assistant Director and Head of the Plant Pathology Unit of PPRSD, says the fall armyworm outbreak exposed the weaknesses in Ghana’s emergency response system.  

The systems for monitoring, detection, prediction, and warning for pests and diseases are weak, leading to invasive species going undetected until they become endemic and spread rapidly”, he says. 

An emergency response plan for invasive alien plant pests drafted in the aftermath of the fall armyworm outbreak in 2019, according to Awudu, targeted only specific pests of imported commodities and failed to be validated for implementation. 


Partnerships to tackle pests and diseases

The Accelerating the Impact of CGIAR Climate Research for Africa (AICCRA) project proposed a new framework that promotes multistakeholder participation in a ‘climate-smart’ approach to Integrated Pests Management (CS-IPM). 

The AICCRA team in Ghana, hosted by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), is promoting CS-IPM as a collaborative and sustainable approach to preventing and managing pests and diseases that attack crops. 

Underpinned by the One Health concept, CS-IPM endorses natural enemies of pests and biopesticides as healthier and environmentally friendlier solutions than synthetic pesticides. 

The new framework proposed by AICCRA informed a comprehensive emergency response anchored in the CS-IPM and implemented through stakeholder collaboration. PPRSD consulted relevant stakeholders across Ghana’s agriculture sector about an emergency response system for pests and diseases for Ghana, with AICCRA’s support. 

These consultations led to the development of an Early Warning and Rapid Response System for Crop Pests and Diseases (EWRRS-PD) and the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between prominent Ghanaian institutions: 

  • Plant Protection and Regulatory Services Directorate (PPRSD), Directorate of Agricultural Extension Services, Ghana Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA)
  • Crops Research Institute
  • Savannah Agricultural Research Institute 
  • Institute of Scientific and Technological Information of Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) 
  • Biotechnology and Nuclear Agriculture Research Institute
  • West African Centre for Water, Irrigation, and Sustainable Agriculture (WACWISA) of the University of Development Studies
  • Ghana Meteorological Agency
  • National Disaster Management Organisation (NADMO) 
  • Farmerline
  • Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) 

The EWRRS-PD, which is a revamp of the old emergency framework developed in 2019 in the aftermath of the fall armyworm , encompasses all crop pests and diseases, and aims to prevent pests and diseases outbreaks by ensuring that potential outbreaks are detected and responded to quickly.

It establishes the EWRRS Authority, which constitutes experts at PPRSD and a Technical Committee made up of experts from the organisations who are signatories to the MoU.  

Under the EWRRS-PD, surveillance will be done by farmers, extension officers and field officers on farms and at the borders of Ghana. If any suspected invasive alien species are found, such detections will be communicated to the nearest District Agriculture Extension Agent (AEA) or PPRSD focal person.

Once a potential threat is reported to the EWRRS-PD Authority, the Authority will forward the information to the Technical Committee, who will initiate processes to validate the risk, carry out a risk assessment and develop risk knowledge information, including awareness and response plan. 

The risk information and response will then be disseminated to farmers and other relevant stakeholders through PPRSD focal persons at the regional and district level, extension officers, and farmer-based organisations (FBOs). 

Speaking at the signing of the MoU, Ghislain Tepa-Yotto, who leads the AICCRA team in Ghana, said the EWRRS-PD framework “places Ghana at the forefront of regional efforts to combat the outbreak and spread of crop pests and diseases”. 

The Director of the Biotechnology and Nuclear Agricultural Research Institute (BNARI) of GAEC, Dr Michael Yao Osae, said the EWRRS-PD will ensure that protocols and tools are developed to sustain farmers’ yield and ultimately Ghana’s food exports. 

NADMO collaborates with PPRSD in responding to plant pests and diseases outbreaks. Its head of Research and Planning, Ruth Arthur describes the response plan as the realization of a vision conceived years ago.  “It will help us to anticipate better and prepare, so we are not surprised by any outbreak,” she said.

Looking forward

The partners who signed the MoU—most notably PPRSD and BNARI—have been training extension officers and lead farmers on monitoring and scouting technologies, CS-IPM, and how the EWRRS-PD works. 

The training exercises, which began in communities where AICCRA has established project sites, are raising awareness of the EWRRS-PD among extension officers and farmers, and enhancing their capacities to scout pests and diseases and communicate potential risks through the appropriate channels for rapid response.

For farmers like Gaetin and Fortune, the new pests and diseases prevention and management framework is a welcome development. 


“Many hands make light work. I am happy to learn that these big organisations are uniting to support us to protect our yields”, said Gaetin.

Gaetin on his maize  in Naburnye, a village in the Lawra district of Ghana.


Reginald Ofori Kyere, Communications Lead, AICCRA Ghana & International Institute of Tropical Agriculture

Related content


Workshop: Validating and Signing MoU for Early Warning and Response System for Crops Pest and Diseases in Ghana

Accra, Ghana

One Health, many partners – helping Ghana’s farmers deal with pests and crop diseases


Ghanaian farmers use of natural remedies to protect crops against pests and diseases featured in series 'The Climate and Us'