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YALI Voices: Changing Climates and the Effect on Maize in Cameroon
January 31, 2019

The long-term condition of the Earth’s environment is changing as the planet’s average surface temperature increases. The significant changes in the Earth’s temperature cause strong arguments between the environmental and scientific community and the genealogical record keepers, on the causes of the acknowledged rising temperatures. From 2001 to 2018, scientists recorded 16 of the 17 warmest years since 1880 (NASA/GISS).

Are insect pest activities related to global warming?
Yes. We know well that mosquitoes do not inhabit a low-temperature environment. Similarly, their insect relatives are also temperature driven. Like mosquitoes, these insects conflict with human interests and cause economic damage to farm crops.

How do insects affect maize?
Hymenopterans such as bees and wasps help in pollination by gathering and transporting pollen to plant receptor sites. However, the larvae of butterflies, moths and beetles are some of the most destructive insect pests, as they rapidly eat valuable plant tissues and weaken the plant. At times, these pests render the host plants susceptible to viruses and other opportunistic pathogens. Several insects, including the lepidopteran maize stem borer (Chilo partellus), and the field-to-storage maize weevil (Sitophilus zeamais) are the causes of heavy maize crop losses in Cameroon.

Is the maize crop endangered by the changing status of insect pests in Cameroon?
Maize is an important cash and food crop in Cameroon. It is a regular component in family meals and ranks second in consumed starch after cassava. It is also used in composing animal feed and is a major feedstock in breweries. Therefore, maize is an incontestable backyard-to -agronomic crop. It is a high-income earner. The national production of maize surged from 310,000 metric tons in 1967 to 2.16 million metric tons in 2016. In well-managed farms in Cameroon, maize productivity is about 11 tons per hectare. With Cameroon’s culture and economy strongly linked to agriculture, and maize crop production being a vital sector, the following shortcomings linked to the insect pests and production of the crop are concerning and may require a multifaceted mitigation approach to evade:

  1. An expected drop in productivity and an imminent fall in yield (quality and quantity) of 10-25 percent of national production will occur by 2020.
  2. Unknown insect pests may break new grounds with the introduction of new crops which hitherto could not thrive in the areas.
  3. Production costs will soar as more aggressive pest control mechanisms have to be put in place to keep pest numbers at bay and preventing them from reaching economic threshold.
  4. Hunger, malnutrition, poverty and disease may result in a country already threatened by economic recession, exacerbated by multiple socio-political conflicts.

Contributed by Mbei Nhoabi Abuno, YALI Network member from Cameroon. The views and opinions expressed here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the YALI Network or the U.S. government. YALI Voices is a series of podcasts, videos and blogs contributed by members of the YALI Network.