Outbreaks of Fall Armyworm, Spodoptera frugiperda, have been reported in DRC, Zambia, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Botswana, South Africa, Namibia, Swaziland, Ghana and Kenya. Regionally, around 330,000 hectares of staple crops, especially maize, have been affected. The remaining southern African mainland countries remain at high risk (OCHA 27/02/2017).
The severity of the impact on regional crop production is yet to be established. The damages caused by the infestation depend on the stage at which the pest attacked the plant. Crops that were infested during the early stages of crop development, in late December, had to be replanted, while those infested later in their growth seem to have recovered without intervention (FEWSNET 28/02/2017).
Households dependent on maize production and El-Niño affected families are particularly vulnerable to this new shock as they have already been exhausting their coping mechanisms to sustained drought, livelihood loss and food insecurity.
Anticipated scope and scale
Given that Fall Armyworms can affect almost all types of crops, especially maize and cereal, the loss of agricultural production, main source of income, and food for households in many countries in the region is likely to impact on the food security situation.
It is also highly likely that other neighbouring provinces and/or countries will also be affected, given the high speed at which the worms spread.
Priorities for humanitarian intervention
Food security is a concern in many of the affected countries. Disruptions to food availability or access may compound food insecurity.
Livelihoods: Agriculture is an important source of income for much of the rural population in the affected countries. Crop damages are a concern and livelihood assistance is a major priority.
The Fall Armyworm problem is compounded by the newness of the pest to the region, its resistance to commonly used pest control chemicals, and the rainy season, which reduces the effectiveness of chemical operations (FEWSNET 20/02/2017).