FAO in Ethiopia

Fall armyworm continues to spread in Ethiopia’s maize fields

A farmer in Southern Ethiopia inspecting his farm infested with the fall armyworm. photo credit: © FAO/Tamiru Legesse

FAO facilitates national awareness training for key partners and field offices

07 August 2017, Addis Ababa – Over half a million hectares of land in 411 districts of Ethiopia have been infested with the fall armyworm (FAW). The pests  are devouring a quarter of the 2.6 million hectares of land planted with maize since it first appeared in the last week of February 2017. 

Speaking at an awareness-raising training event organized for national experts and field offices, Zebdewos Salato, Director of the Plant Protection Directorate at the Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources (MoANR), emphasized: "FAW infestation is now at a serious stage. Infestations in new areas and re-infestations cause a big challenge to control the pests. The migration route follows maize-growing areas starting from the south and spreading more than a thousand kilometers to northern regions."

Maize is an important food crop in Ethiopia. Nine million Ethiopian households grow maize on more than two million of hectares of land every year. These households consume 75 percent of the annual maize produce. A corn stover, consisting of leaves, stalks and cobs is used for livestock feed and fuel or left in the field for soil improvement.

Farmers and local governments are racing to control the infestation of the pests through applying pesticide, handpicking and other traditional methods. Given the scale of the infestation and large areas of maize field in the country, there is a gap in the capacity to control the rapid spread of the pests.

In less than two weeks between 10 and 19 July 2017, the total infested area increased by 90,456 ha. Capacity gaps mean that it is not possible to undertake control measures on about 30 percent of the total infested area.

The Government has already spent nearly US$3 million to purchase pesticides, but this is not enough, added Zebdewos, “in small farm holding areas, we strengthen early warning and monitoring system and if the infestation area is less than 5 percent of the field, we recommend handpicking and killing of the larvae. If it is high, we recommend pesticides.”

According to recent reports from the MOANR, it was possible to spray pesticide on nearly 30 percent of the infested areas using available resources and human capacity, and the cultural control of FAW by handpicking and killing accounted for the response on nearly 40 percent of the total infested area.

“The fall armyworm has already affected farmers’ food security,” said Abdoul Karim Bah, Deputy FAO Representative in Ethiopia. “The training that FAO has organized for key partners from the Government and NGOs will help raise the awareness about the FAW and equip them with the information and skills they need to understand FAW and how to manage the outbreak in the most effective way.”

“Most importantly, we need to ensure the knowledge from these training workshops is transferred to the farmers who face the problem daily”, Bah added.

The training aims to raise awareness on identification, early detection, monitoring and management of FAW in affected areas. Learning and experiences from the control and management of maize stalk borer, and community-based African Armyworm monitoring, forecasting and early warning systems were presented and discussed, with goal of adapting these for the control and management of FAW in Ethiopia.


Tamiru Legesse – [email protected]

National Communication Officer, FAO Ethiopia   

Additional Information:

A Framework for the Coordinated Management of Fall Armyworm in Africa:

Based on the actions points and recommendations identified in the All Africa Consultation meeting in Nairobi, FAO has formulated a region-wide multi-stakeholder Framework for the Coordinated Management of FAW. The Framework consists of four components, Surveillance and early warning, Impact assessment, Sustainable Management, and Coordination. This Framework is intended as a guide for the development of projects and programmes by the various stakeholders in the in the areas of their mandates.

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