Coordinated Global Action Is the Best Way to Control the Fall Armyworm Pest

Fall Armyworm larva feeding and damaging maize plant. Credit:

By Rémi Nono Womdim
ROME, Dec 11 2019 (IPS)

Dealing with transboundary pests is tricky at the best of times.
Standards, practices, capacity levels and engagement vary across
countries and regions, and responses are often ad hoc and
ineffective. However, matters become even more complex when the
pest in question flies over borders, threatens the food security
and livelihoods of millions, and causes severe environmental and
economic damage along the way. Fall Armyworm is such a

Step forward the Food and
Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
(FAO) with the
“Global Action for Fall Armyworm Control”, a pioneering
initiative that aims to mobilize USD 500 million over 2020–22 to
take radical, direct and coordinated measures to fight Fall
Armyworm at a global level.

A brief introduction to Fall Armyworm

Fall Armyworm is an invasive moth originating in the Americas.
It prefers to eat maize but also feeds on 80 or more other crops,
including rice, sorghum, millet, sugarcane, vegetable crops and
cotton. Once established in an area, Fall Armyworm is almost
impossible to eradicate and very difficult to stop spreading – a
sprightly adult can fly up to several hundred kilometres! Indeed,
since its arrival in West Africa nearly four years ago, Fall
Armyworm has already spread across the African continent; and
beyond Africa, to more than a dozen Asian countries, including
China and India. Europe could be next.

It’s hard to calculate the global extent of Fall Armyworm
damage but, based on
2018 estimates from 12 countries
, maize yield losses in Africa
could be as high as 17.7 million tonnes annually. This equates to
40 percent of Africa’s annual maize yield or USD 4.6 billion. The
most direct impact is on the continent’s smallholder maize
farmers, most of whom rely on the crop to stave off hunger and

What is the Global Action?

FAO’s new
Global Action for Fall Armyworm Control
will massively scale up
FAO projects and activities to reach out to hundreds of millions of
affected farmers. The Global Action has three key objectives: i)
establish global coordination and regional collaboration on
monitoring, early warning, and Integrated Pest Management of Fall
Armyworm; ii) reduce associated crop losses; and iii) lower the
risk of further spread.

Rémi Nono Womdim

The Global Action will target the three regions that have
experienced a Fall Armyworm invasion in recent years – Africa,
the Near East and Asia – and align with FAO’s new data-driven
, which aims to support achievement of the UN Sustainable
Development Goals
by pairing the most developed countries with
those with the highest poverty and hunger rates.

Knowledge sharing, innovation and research

Paramount in the Global Action will be coordinated efforts to
spread knowledge and information to smallholders affected by Fall
Armyworm, especially through the establishment or scaling up of
dedicated national task forces. These task forces will both bolster
and go beyond current FAO initiatives, such as the
Farmer Field School
programme, reaching into the most isolated

The Global Action will also promote biological pest control and
other innovative field practices, as well as technologies such as
the open source Fall Armyworm Monitoring and Early Warning System
(FAMEWS) tool, which uses artificial intelligence to help farmers
with smartphones detect Fall Armyworm damage and choose appropriate
response actions. As a near real-time data centre, FAMEWS allows
for better estimates on pest spread and crop damage, which helps in
targeting interventions.

There is no one-size-fits-all remedy. Combating Fall Armyworm
will require bespoke, science-based solutions that take account of
the specific context of each infested area. However, knowing what
works best, and where, will require further research. Local
knowledge and the decades’ worth of experience of dealing with
Fall Armyworm in the Americas will also be important guides.

An auspicious beginning

It is fitting that the launch of the Global Action came just two
days after the official opening of the FAO-led United Nations
International Year of Plant Health 2020
underlines the importance of plant health to both planetary and
human health, and urges action against the further spread of pests
and diseases, particularly due to climate change, trade and other

Ultimately, the success of the Global Action, IYPH 2020 and
other plant health initiatives will be determined by the ability of
a broad range of stakeholders to work together for a common goal.
FAO will play a lead role in driving this partnership model and, in
the words of FAO Director-General, Qu
, commit “to putting the knowledge, experience and
lessons learned from stakeholders and partners at the service of
farmers throughout the world to stem the global threat of this

For more information:

The post
Coordinated Global Action Is the Best Way to Control the Fall
Armyworm Pest
appeared first on Inter Press Service.


Rémi Nono Womdim, Deputy Director, FAO Plant
Production and Protection Division

A new USD 500 million initiative by the Food and
Agriculture Organization of the United Nations is leading the

The post
Coordinated Global Action Is the Best Way to Control the Fall
Armyworm Pest
appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Source: FS – All – Ecology – News
Coordinated Global Action Is the Best Way to Control the Fall Armyworm Pest