Christabel Ligami

The African Development Bank and The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) are spearheading a harmonized, multi-stakeholder regional approach that emphasizes integrated pest and disease management to control Fall Armyworm (FAW) via the Bank’s Technologies for African Agriculture Transformation (TAAT) agenda.

The joint action plan is expected to stop the spread of Fall Armyworm (FAW)—an invasive pest threatening food supply and incomes of millions of African smallholder farmers.

“The FAW is a serious threat to Kenya’s food security. Last year, the menace reduced maize yield in Kenya by 20 per cent. We are therefore looking forward to an effective low-cost technology options to deploy to farmers in the coming season,” said David Mwangi, Head of Plant Protection Services with Kenya’s Ministry of Agriculture State Department for Crop Development.

“This is a useful exercise in our efforts to transform value chains of maize, an important commodity for food security in the Eastern and Southern African regions and sorghum and millet in the Sahel—these are the next loved hosts of the FAW after maize,” said Chris Akem, TAAT Coordinator at IITA adding that it is important for strengthening partnerships to ensure a coordinated regional approach for such a devastating pest.

The Fall Armyworm adult is dispersed by wind; its later caterpillar stages feed inside maize whorls and cobs where they are inaccessible to chemical sprays. In its short lifespan of about 10 days, a single, mated, adult female moth can lay between 1,500 and 2,000 eggs at several locations which are tens of kilometers apart. Therefore, if not properly controlled, many more countries could be at risk, as well as the food and income security of over 300 million resource-poor people in sub-Saharan Africa, particularly in those regions where maize and sorghum and millet are staple food crops.

Joseph Coompson, the African Development Bank’s Regional Manager for Eastern Africa, said that FAW was a highly damaging transboundary pest threatening Africa’s food and nutrition security.

“Reports have shown that, if no appropriate action is taken, the fall armyworm could cause from 21 to 53 percent of maize yield losses in 12 African countries within five years. These losses are valued at US$2.48 billion to US$6.187 billion. This would significantly affect African countries, which are already importing food worth more than US$35 billion and the import bill is expected to reach more than US$100 billion by 2026,” he said.

The invasive Fall Armyworm was first detected in Africa in 2016 and has extended its insatiable appetite to other crops aside from maize, including sorghum and millet. The pest continues to threaten billions of dollars in annual damage to African food staples.

Scientists predict that without appropriate action, the Fall Armyworm threatens to cause billions of dollars in annual damage to African food staples.