FAO Regional Office for Africa

Scientists turn to smallholder-oriented integrated pest management solutions to combat Fall Armyworm

Conference hears that more environmentally sustainable options known to attack Fall Armyworm are being used in integrated attack on the pest

A farmer inspecting Fall Armyworm on a maize plant in Zimbabwe. @FAO

24 August 2021, Lilongwe – The development of smallholder-oriented integrated pest management solutions to fight Fall Armyworm are essential following a global review, a conference held by concerned parties heard today.

Over 500 scientists and researchers from around the world are meeting remotely over two days to review current knowledge on the efficacy and safety of various integrated pest management (IPM) tactics with data from Africa and other regions of the world.

“We know, for example, that resistant crop varieties can be the first line of defense for a safe and sustainable management of the pest. There are a number of maize lines with resistance against Fall Armyworm, ready to be tested in different countries,” said Ismahane Elouafi, Chief Scientist, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, noting that FAO and other partners have conducted a global review of integrated pest management strategies with known efficacies against Fall Armyworm.

Highest risk for maize producers

Fall Armyworm can feed on over 350 plant species and poses a particularly significant risk for millions of maize-producing smallholder farmers in Southern Africa.

“This conference should encourage development and adoption of environmentally-friendly pest control technologies to reduce the impact of the pest on crop production. Smallholder farmers should be able to afford the cost of the technologies to be developed,” said Erica Maganga, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Malawi, the country hosting the conference.

According to World Agroforestry Centre, there are over 150 parasitoid species and other natural predators — including spiders, beetles, ants, social wasps, insectivorous birds and bats — known to attack Fall Armyworm. These natural enemies are abundant in most smallholders’ fields and data indicate that they provide effective control of the pest in many situations.

Risk to food security

Fall Armyworm is considered one of the top 10 devastating plant pests affecting food and agriculture.

The pest has now spread to 71 countries outside the Americas, causing an estimated economic damage of USD 9.4 billion annually in Africa alone and USD 884 million in Asia.

“Evidence from assessment on Fall Armyworm shows that the infestation can only be tackled using an integrated pest management approach in a sustainable way,” said May-Guri Sæthre of the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad), one of the partners to the conference.

Global Action for Fall Armyworm Control

FAO is currently implementing a Global Action for Fall Armyworm Control to curb the growing threat of the pest and to ensure a strong coordinated approach to sustainably control the pest at country, regional and global levels.

In recent years, through its farmer field schools, FAO has trained over 400 master trainers who have in turn trained over 15 300 farmer field school facilitators from over 30 countries in Fall Armyworm management.

The conference is organized by the Department for Agricultural Research in Malawi, Zambian Agricultural Research Institute, World Agroforestry (ICRAF), Southern African Development Community (SADC), Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) Sub-regional Office for Southern Africa and Grow Asia. It is supported by Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation.