Last week, CABI confirmed that since it arrived in Africa in 2016, the Fall Armyworm (FAW) has been reported in 28 African countries, presenting a now permanent agricultural challenge for the continent. FAW mainly affects maize and can cut yields by up to 60%. In research funded by the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID), CABI estimate that, if not properly managed, the pest will cost 10 of Africa’s major maize producing economies a total of $2.2bn to $5.5bn a year in lost maize harvests.
In 2016 the fall armyworm, a major pest in the Americas, was found in Africa for the first time. Since then it has rapidly spread across much of sub-Saharan Africa. The caterpillar feeds on more than 80 different plants, but maize is its preferred host, the most widely grown crop in Africa and a staple for half the continent. In the context of Africa’s climate, the insect is now likely to build permanent and significant populations in West, Central and Southern Africa, and spread to other regions when temperatures are favourable, posing a major threat to food security.
CABI and AGRA are hosting a side event on fall armyworm at the African Green Revolution Forum 2017 in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire. If you are not attending the conference, you can watch the livesteam below on September 7 at 14:00 (UTC). The video will also be available after the event.
[Update 14:20]: Due to poor internet connectivity, we are unable to run the livestream. A video will be made available on this page after the event.
Seeds are the unsung heroes of agriculture, and modern varieties provide beneficial traits such as drought tolerance and cooking quality. Some varieties are even designed to provide a platform with which to provide other products, such as seed treatments conferring additional insect and disease protection.
The lack of modern varieties, particularly in developing countries, is a major constraint on smallholder productivity. A commonly quoted figure of 35% penetration of modern varieties in Africa is probably an overestimate and the real figure is closer to 20-25%. As an example there are no modern varieties used on 6 million hectares of sorghum in Mali and the situation is similar for groundnuts.