Scientists develop a collaborative strategy to tame invasive species in Africa


By Verenardo Meeme, Rootooba, 24 June 2020

Researchers have developed a collaborative strategy for managing invasive species in Africa for the year 2021–2030. This comes in the wake of the increasing frequency of invasive species in Africa that have resulted in significant threats to food security. 

‘‘The overall objective of the strategy is to effectively guide and coordinate actions at the continental, regional and national levels towards prevention and eradication of invasive species in Africa.’’ cites Paul Nampala the writer of the strategy. 

The strategy published by International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (icipe), CABI, International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and the African Union (AU) in June 2020 suggests that institutional engagements will contribute to eradicating the menace as many countries in Africa lack adequate capacity to detect and implement management measures. ‘‘The strategy shall be operationalized in five-year cycles to allow for an opportunity to address emerging issues progressively based on experiences gained during the implementation of the foregoing five-year period into the next.’’ The strategy states. 

Invasive species have been described in the document as species, which come from another ecosystem and establish in new environments. They establish and thrive mainly because no indigenous/native natural enemies are effective in their regulation immediately or in the long-term enabling the invasive to thrive, expand exponentially and start to out-compete the local, native species.

‘‘Invasive species destroy livelihoods, cause hunger, threaten the economic prosperity of entire countries and regions, and increase biodiversity loss.’’ The strategy points out.  

The strategy document observes that over half of the world’s food comes from just three crops – rice, wheat and maize. CABI estimates that these three crops alone suffer annual yield losses of up to 16% (i.e. US$96,000 million of lost production) due to invasive species (CABI, 2019).

For instance, invasion of fall armyworm in 12 African countries was estimated to cause an annual yield loss of 4.1 to 17.7 million tons of maize crop alone. In addition, it is estimated that 480,000 invasive species have been introduced to different ecosystems globally. Unfortunately, their geographic spread and impact are growing due to climate change, trade and tourism, with about 600 million communities living in Africa, particularly rural dwellers, suffering yield loss to diseases from invasive means, hence compounding food security challenges. 

To effectively address the invasive species menace in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), a shift in strategy from a reactive to a more proactive intervention is urgently needed, based on the internationally recognized three-stage approach of prevention, early detection, and control. 

The strategy calls for a coordinated Africa-led invasive species management effort at continent level working closely with an effective system at the national level to prevent the impact of invasive species, including appropriate controls at border posts to prevent the accidental introduction of species from other regions that might pose threats to agricultural production.

The previous disjointed efforts towards eradicating the invasives by various players have been cited as a hindrance to management efforts. 

The success of the proposed approach will require robust phytosanitary capacity and systems, continent and nationwide surveillance, integration of invasive species threats into national disaster response units, interdisciplinary and cross border research to develop and deploy novel solutions, collaborative resource mobilization and citizen science.  

The strategy, if implemented will support Africa’s effort to not only achieve sustainable functioning of biodiversity and ecosystems at continental level but also reduce significantly the financial resources that have otherwise been spent through ad hoc and reactive approaches that result in ineffective prevention and management of invasive species, the strategy concludes.


The comprehensive strategy Strategy for Managing Invasive Species in Africa 2021–2030 can be downloaded here.