Africa: Fall Armyworm Outbreaks (25 April)
Update since 23 March: The further spread of Fall Armyworm was observed in Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe in March. Damage from existing outbreaks was also sustained in Rwanda, Uganda, and Zambia. While further outbreaks are expected only in northern Tanzania in the coming months, all countries are advised to continue monitoring diligently and to apply appropriate preventative measures. Although the Fall Armyworm season is expected to end in June, long-term impacts are expected for affected countries, and neighbouring countries should also remain diligent. (Lancaster 05/04/2017; Reuters 13/04/2017)
Outbreaks of Fall Armyworm, Spodoptera frugiperda, were reported in Botswana, DRC,
Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, and Zambia. Regionally, around 330,000 hectares of staple crops, especially maize, have been affected. The remaining southern African mainland countries remain at high risk.
The severity of the impact on regional crop production is yet to be established. The damage caused by the infestation depends 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.
Households dependent on maize production as well as El Niño-affected families are particularly vulnerable to this new shock as they have already been exhausting their coping mechanisms due 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, the 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 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 damage is a concern and livelihood assistance is a major priority.
The Fall Armyworm problem is compounded by how new the pest is to the region, its resistance to commonly used pest control chemicals, and the rainy season, which reduces the effectiveness of chemical operations.