Global Action for Fall Armyworm Control

Multi-stakeholder Regional Workshop in Africa

Fall Armyworm (FAW), or Spodoptera frugiperda, is an invasive insect pest native to tropical and subtropical regions of the Americas, which has invaded and quickly spread across sub-Saharan Africa, infesting millions of hectares of smallholders’ maize, millet, and sorghum fields. FAW was first detected in Central and West Africa in early 2016. Today, it is present in all countries of sub-Saharan Africa except Lesotho. It continues to spread north and east, now present in Yemen, Egypt and many countries of Asia, including India, China and Indonesia. FAW can cause significant yield losses if not well managed or in the absence of natural biological control. Sustainable management of this pest needs a multi-stakeholder approach with the cereal growers as main beneficiaries. Farmers, especially the millions of smallholder producers, need a supportive environment of policy, advice, tools, resources, management options and communications and education to sustainably manage FAW.

Following the first outbreaks of FAW, the Governments of several African countries encouraged and supported the use of pesticides for FAW control. Some pesticides can produce short-term control, when applied correctly and at the appropriate time, but their use is often problematic and not sustainable. First, many older pesticides still being used have demonstrated negative human health and environmental impacts. Second, FAW has become resistant to many pesticides. Last, pesticides do not make economic sense for the millions of smallholder cereal farmers, as their costs are high and the value of increased yields do not pay enough to cover the costs. Smallholders need access to sustainable management practices. Fortunately, much is known about the agroecological management of FAW from the Americas, and during the first three years in Africa, valuable experience and knowledge has been generated.

FAO organized an experts meeting in July 2017 in Ghana, bringing experts from Brazil, Mexico, and USA to present lessons learned from the Americas and work with African colleagues to identify priorities and develop partnerships. Out of this meeting, twelve Technical Working Groups were formed that have helped guide the Global FAW Programme, including a framework for partnership to coordinate collaboration with many stakeholders and partners. The Programme was launched in response to requests received from African countries. FAO has mobilized over USD 25 million to put these plans into action.

The Programme provides policy and technical advice to national programmes and farmers via its components:

  • Policy and Technical Guidance (pesticides, sustainable management practices, etc.)
  • Fall Armyworm Monitoring and Early Warning System (FAMEWS)
  • Farmer Education via Farmer Field Schools
  • Validation of local sustainable management practices
  • Coordination with many international and national stakeholders.

In Africa, FAO has been supporting governments through trainings, implementation of FAMEWS, Farmer Field Schools, communication material, and support through projects, including Technical Cooperation Projects and extra-budgetary support from Norway, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Japan, Belgium, Ireland, and the African Development Bank (AfDB). FAO has also supported the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and its member countries, in cooperation with the West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA), the Permanent Interstate Committee for Drought Control in the Sahel (CILSS), and other partners in developing the “ECOWAS action plan to prevent and control plant pests and diseases”.

One of the central capacity-building activities of the two AfDB projects is a South-South Cooperation with the Brazilian agricultural research organization, EMBRAPA. FAO facilitates the exchange of experiences and technical advice to bring to African countries technology that permits local, low-cost, effective and sustainable use of biological control agents, including Trichogramma and Bacillus thuringiensis. The Programme also supports the training in biological control at institutions based in Africa, including the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT). Two of the FAW Technical Working groups are focusing on biological control and bio pesticides.

The first three years of experience with FAW in Africa have also produced many other successful lessons learned on sustainable management. These include the use of plant diversity (push-pull), mechanical control, local botanical solutions, bio pesticides, and the conservation and attraction of naturally-occurring natural enemies of FAW. Many lessons learned have been synthesized by FAO and partners for the sustainable management of FAW. Some of these lessons learned can be found here. FAO has developed and is supporting the implementation of the Fall Armyworm Monitoring and Early Warning System (FAMEWS). The digital app and platform provide monitoring for early action and advice to farmers on FAW management. The platform is available here.

FAW is a dangerous transboundary pest with a high potential to spread continually due to its natural distribution capacity and international trade. It seriously undermines the achievement of African countries' goals in the context of the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP), the Malabo Declaration, and the 2030 Agenda for Development Goals. Developing a harmonized, concerted regional strategy and roadmap to combat FAW is the need of the hour. In this context, the proposed multi-stakeholder workshop will build on previous regional and international meetings to raise awareness and to coordinate the response to the FAW in Africa.

Workshop Objectives

The major objectives of the multi-stakeholder workshop are to:

  • Share experiences and build on lessons learned from past and ongoing FAW projects, particularly the progress of the pilot experiences and the economic feasibility and sustainability of biologically-based technologies, including Trichogramma and Bacillus thuringiensis.
  • Raise awareness of decision makers in the region on the feasibility of local production.
  • Present the Monitoring and Early Warning system FAMEWS (data collection and in-field training for farmers).
  • Identify challenges in relation to FAW control in Africa and exchange ideas for process improvements.
  • Inform stakeholders about ongoing and future initiatives of international collaboration for FAW.
  • Set up a mechanism for a concerted and coordinated regional response and formulate an action plan together with a roadmap for future actions.

The meeting report is available here