Haliyah Ali Muthana Saleh Yemen

Fighting fall armyworm for family food security

"I noticed a strange worm in my maize and sorghum."

Haliyah has rented her farm for 30 years, working with dogged determination to provide for her family’s needs. The widow exudes farming know-how and expertise. However, two years ago, Haliyah came across something new and troubling. “I noticed a strange worm in my maize and sorghum,” she recalls. “It spread quickly in my field and I had no idea what it was. I resorted to spraying chemical pesticides, but most of my crop was still damaged. It was like a nightmare for me.” 

The following season, Haliyah used not only chemical pesticides, but also two traditional control methods – hot pepper and agricultural crop rotation. “I was surprised when hot pepper had a greater impact on the crop than the chemical pesticide, but my field was still infested with the worm.”  

Haliyah took a sample of the worm and some plant roots to the nearby Agriculture and Irrigation Office, where experts identified it as fall armyworm (Spodoptera frugiperda). FAO had already detected the pest during surveys in the area and they were about to launch a campaign to control itHaliyah's vigilance and proactivity in reporting it, however, helped to raise awareness among the local community about fall armyworm, which feeds on maize and more than 80 other species of crops, including rice, sorghum, millet, sugar cane, vegetable crops and cotton. 

With support from FAO, the national authorities of Yemen have since built capacity to identify, monitor and manage this devastating pest. FAO has endorsed the use of an integrated pest-control approach that minimizes reliance on chemical pesticides and incorporates sustainable control practices. Biological pesticides have been introduced, which are safer for beneficial insects. FAO has also provided monitoring equipment (including pheromone traps) and smartphones, and conducted awareness-raising campaigns to advise farmers. 

"Thanks to the support provided by FAO, the presence of fall armyworm has already been reduced,” says Haliyah“Now, I have no worries any more about my family food security because my crops are protected.”