Since its outbreak in Nigeria in 2016, the Fall Armyworm has spread precipitously across sub-Saharan Africa and has extended to India.  The Fall Armyworm (FAW), or Spodoptera frugiperda is an insect that is native to tropical and subtropical regions of the Americas. In its larva stage, it can cause significant damage to crops, if not meticulously managed. The worm is notorious for feeding on maize, sorghum, rice and other related food crops threatening their harvests in particular, and food security on a broader scale.

The World Food Programme (WFP) considers people food secure when they have availability and adequate access at all times to sufficient, safe, nutritious food to maintain a healthy and active life. However, with the outbreak of the FAW, there lies a significant risk to the achievement of global food security.  Prior to the massive spread of the FAW across several countries in Sub-Saharan Africa and now Asia (India), the world was grappling with a worsening global food crisis across a majority of developing countries. According to a collaborative UN report “The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World2017”, world hunger had increased to 815 million from 717 million in 2017 attributed primarily to conflict, droughts, and floods.

As the world struggles to deal with the global food crisis, the emergence and rapid spread of the FAW in 30 countries in Africa and now India in Asia, seriously threatens the food and income security of millions of smallholder farmers. In Africa alone, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) that has been assisting countries with tackling the pestilence, has indicated that the FAW infestation has damaged tens of millions of hectares of maize. The damaged surveyed in Africa is reported to be the range from 21% – 53% of crops production with an estimated value of between US$2.48 billion and US$6.19 billion in lost revenue.

While the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the UN Decade of Action on Nutrition 2016-2025 has called on all countries and stakeholders to act together to end hunger and prevent all forms of malnutrition by 2030, the latest outbreak and spread of the FAW should sound an alarm that the threat to food security is widening and not lessening. Unlike North America that has managed to control the amount of harm that the FAW can perpetrate on crop production due to the massive advancement in genetically modified food crops in that region, a majority of the countries in the developing world are less prepared and lack the sophistication to manage the pest adequately. For example, African countries are relying on chemical pesticides and other traditional methods; although both solutions may have a negative and protracted impact on the environment and health. Ultimately, only a global action can adequately extinguish a pest that is as infectious and devastating as the FAW.

For Further Reading:

Fall Armyworm: A Threat to Africa’s Food Security

Fall Armyworm’s Arrival in India Sparks Fear of its Spread Through Asia

Deadly Agricultural Pest Fall Armyworm Spotted in Telangana

Fall Armyworm in Africa: A Guide for Integrated Pest Management

FAO: Fall Armyworm

The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2017

What is Food Security?

Thanks for sharing !

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