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Fall armyworm (Spodoptera frugiperda), FAW, is an insect native to tropical and subtropical regions of the Americas. Its larval stage (photo) feeds on more than 80 plant species, including maize, rice, sorghum, millet, sugarcane, vegetable crops and cotton. FAW can cause significant yield losses if not well managed. It can have a number of generations per year and the moth can fly up to 100 km per night. FAW was first detected in Central and Western Africa in early 2016 (Benin, Nigeria, Sao Tome and Principe, and Togo) and subsequently, in the whole of mainland Southern Africa (except Lesotho and the Island States), in Cabo Verde, Cameroon, Ghana, Niger, Ethiopia, Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Uganda, and it is expected to go further. Its modality of introduction, along with its biological and ecological adaptation across Africa are still speculative. FAW is a dangerous transboundary pest with a high potential of continuing to spread due to its natural distribution capacity and trade. Farmers will need great support to sustainably manage FAW in their cropping systems through Integrated Pest Management (IPM).

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has taken a lead role in convening partners and in organizing consultation meetings resulting in a region-wide multi-stakeholder “Framework for the Coordinated Management of Fall Armyworm in Africa”. One of FAO’s key next steps for FAW work in Africa is “to support the design and implementation of a sustainable and ecological pest management programme for smallholder farmers in Africa, after looking at the experiences of farmers and researchers from the Americas” who have been living with the pest for several hundred years. Recommended management practices will be tried and adapted in the field via Farmers’ Field Schools (FFS) with farmers and farmers’ organizations across Africa, in collaboration with research and advisory services. Experiences and successes will be documented and shared to refine management options.

FAW FFS guide