RIU - Research Into Use
War against armyworm - battle plans for Malawi
30 June 2010

The Ministry of Agriculture in Malawi has expressed their interest in setting up a distribution system for the armyworm biocontrol agent in Malawi as soon as the product is ready.

This is great news for RIU Best Bet Safe and affordable armyworm control tools. This breakthrough came about as a result of the recent and highly success conference in Nairobi called Winning the war against armyworms. The Malawi Government was impressed by the advantages of the biocontrol agent SpexNPV, a non-toxic low-cost locally produced bio-pesticide. It is in fact a naturally occurring, highly infectious virus, specific to armyworm that can rapidly wipe out outbreaks of the pest. Whilst the SpexNPV is naturally occurring it cannot be relied upon to arrive unaided/naturally, it usually appears towards the end of an outbreak. The SpexNPV is harvested and sold to farmers in affordable 50-100 g bottles. This treatment is effective and is half the cost of chemical pesticides. It is non-toxic and requires no specialist safety gear and represents no danger from stockpiles, unlike with chemical pesticides. It is anticipated that it will cost around $5-6 per ha.

Director of RIU Ian Maudlin said:
"RIU Best Bets are small strategic investments which use the skills and energy of the private sector to get research into use. In this case we are working with Eco Agri Consultancy Services Ltd in Tanzania to speed up production of the biological control agent SpexNPV.

Our hypothesis was that the private sector would have the drive to push out the Best Bets and here we have clear evidence that we were right. Starting negotiations to get the research into use in a new country is exactly what we meant when we said we wanted to see impact at scale.

This development follows on the heels of partners in the RIU Best Bet Stamp Out Sleeping Sickness (SOS-Uganda) initiative being funded to transfer their learning to Nigeria's Jos Plateau as SOS-Nigeria. RIU Best Bet Shujaaz, the Kenyan development comic, has also just doubled its production run to 600,000 per month.

RIU Best Bets are becoming a magnet for additional investment and are developing new markets for research outputs in ways that have exceeded our expectations."

RIUtv correspondent, Nik Wood, reports from Tanzania where funds from RIU's Best Bets programme is being used to combat the scourge of armyworm which devastate crops and pastureland. April 2010 (8:39)
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