Fighting fall armyworm (FAW) requires global efforts as the pest could spread to more countries, warn scientists. During the past two years, fall armyworm has spread to 44 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, threatening the food security of about 200 million people who depend on maize as a staple food crop, experts say.

“We need to act globally as a team,” says Segenet Kelemu, director-general, International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology, explaining that the rapid spread of the pest from the Americas to Africa in 2015 and now to Asia is an indicator that all countries are at risk.

Boddupalli Prasanna, director of the global maize programme, International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center adds, “There is no single specific solution that can effectively and sustainably manage fall armyworm.”

According to Prasanna, integrated pest management is needed to control FAW in Africa and beyond. “We need the integration of validated technologies in a complementary manner for sustainable management of this pest based on local contexts,” Prasanna told SciDev.Net.

Prasanna calls for more research to identify and create specific technologies that can be combined in a particular country or region so that smallholder farmers can tackle the pest in an affordable and environmentally sustainable manner.

According to Prasanna, although pesticides are easily available through agro-dealer networks, smallholders should be sensitised to completely avoid highly toxic pesticides and use only environmentally safer alternatives. – SciDev.Net

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