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Fruit flies in West Africa
Four years ago, a parasite known as “fruit flies” was decimating mango crops in West Africa, where the industry is a big part of the economy. With the support of the European Union and AFD, ECOWAS is leading an innovative regional surveillance project aiming to eliminate the scourge.
Attacks on 50-80% of Fruit Production

It has taken four years of intense effort for the Economic Community of Western African States (ECOWAS), its member states, and West African producers and exporters to partially eradicate the fruit fly. The innocuous nickname belies the devastating effects of a parasite that attacks 50 to 80% of fruit production in the region, with a particular taste for mangoes. This poses a serious threat to fruit cargoes bound for Europe.

The damage caused by the parasite is felt at every level, as the decrease in production not only affects production yields and income for small farmers, but also food security for local populations.

In 2015, ECOWAS launched a counterattack to respond to the pest, in the form of the regional support project to fight fruit flies in West Africa (PLMF).

Financed with €16.7 million from the EU, €1.5 million from AFD and €3 million from ECOWAS and its member states, the project is being applied in some 300 orchards across the region. Monitors track the level of fruit fly infestation issuing early alerts via SMS to producers and governmental plant protection departments. These alerts include tips on how to take effective treatment steps against fruit flies.

Losses cut by more than half

This unique surveillance system contributed to a 57% reduction in the amount of fruit cargoes damaged or destroyed by parasites between 2014 and 2018. Mango exports from the ECOWAS area to Europe rose by about 40%, which provided a boost to businesses and small local producers.

Unprecedented coordination between regional and national stakeholders, both public and private, also resulted in training on integrated pest management techniques and education about the new European phytosanitary regulation, which is more restrictive for exports. It also facilitated the emergence of a pool of experts that the region can now call on.

What’s more, the project helped bolster several laboratories in the region, such as the National Specialization Center for Fruits and Vegetables (CNS-FL) in Bobo-Dioulasso, Burkina Faso, which is earmarked to become the regional center for excellence in the field.

Consolidating gains

Responding to a request from ECOWAS, AFD and the EU have begun a second, trial phase of the project. Its goal is to give small producers the access to and ownership of these innovations and new technologies for managing fruit flies. There are also moves under way to hone surveillance and alert systems, and expand them to all ECOWAS countries.