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Fall Armyworm

Fall Armyworm (FAW), or Spodoptera frugiperda, is an insect that is native to tropical and subtropical regions of the Americas. In its larva stage, it can cause significant damage to crops, if not well managed. It prefers maize, but can feed on more than 80 additional species of plants, including rice, sorghum, millet, sugarcane, vegetable crops and cotton. FAW was first detected in Central and Western Africa in early 2016 and has quickly spread across virtually all of Sub-Saharan Africa. Because of trade and the moth’s strong flying ability, it has the potential to spread further. Farmers will need great support through Integrated Pest Management to sustainably manage FAW in their cropping systems. 

FAO and the Fall Armyworm

FAO has proposed a five-year programme of action to help smallholder farmers, their organizations, their public institutions, national governments and development partners quickly respond to the challenges of FAW infestation across Africa.  

FAO is taking an active role in coordinating partners’ activities, plans and approaches to provide sustainable solutions to the FAW challenge. 

Supporting Farmers

The direct actions that can be taken to manage FAW are largely up to farmers in their fields. Thus FAO’s main focus is aimed at helping farmers do their job better. Farmers need to first understand what FAW is – how to identify it and understand its biology and ecology. They need to be able to determine the risk level in the context of their production systems and take appropriate actions, both preventive and responsive, based on their assessments.  

FAO and its partners are helping:  

  • to determine and disseminate best practices to smallholder farmers 

  • to conduct risk analyses 

  • to facilitate and support the refinement and application of near-term solutions  

  • to shape the policy and technical environment that farmers face. 

Lessons from the Americas

Some advice and recommendations are directly available from the Americas where both maize and FAW are native. Maize farmers in the Americas have been managing FAW for centuries. However, the ecological and economic contexts are quite different between the typical maize farmers of the Americas and those of Africa. A sustainable integrated FAW management programme appropriate for the African context needs to be rapidly communicated and put into practice by tens of millions of smallholder maize farmers across the African continent. It is also urgent that governments fully appreciate the threat that FAW poses and adopt policies and programmes that help promote sustainable responses to this threat. 

Actions on the ground

FAO will train National Plant Protection Organizations, extension services, and farmers via Farmer Field Schools to quickly get the appropriate action in the Field, while simultaneously filling knowledge gaps, innovating for future solutions, developing local capacities, promoting local empowerment and rural youth employment and coordinating among partners to maximize results. 

FAO Technical Working Groups, along with many partners, are developing: 

  • Recommendations on the use of synthetic pesticides 

  • Recommendations on biological control, especially bio-pesticides 

  • A monitoring and early warning programme 

  • Farmer Field Schools curricula and communications. 

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