Briefing Global Media on African Armyworm

Posted on Sep 12, 2017

This month, Matter PR has been helping to raise awareness of the spread of Fall Armyworm in Africa and promote a better understanding of the latest scientific research on this devastating infestation.

On behalf of our client CABI, we worked in partnership with agencies Grayling and African Laughter, to create a stakeholder and media briefing at one of Africa’s largest and most important agriculture and development conferences, AGRF 2017. 


There has been widespread and sometimes highly emotive media coverage on Armyworm in Africa over the past year but much speculation and misunderstanding about the exact nature of the infestation and what is known about how to control or prevent it. The AGRF 2017 platform enabled CABI, and key partners such as AGRA, to improve the media’s understanding about our current level of knowledge on Fall Armyworm and potential ways to combat it.

During the briefing, CABI released new research which shows that 28 African countries are now confirmed to have FAW, compared with 17 in April 2017. Following the pest’s arrival in Africa in 2016, it presents a permanent agricultural challenge for the continent. FAW feeds on more than 80 crops, but prefers maize and can cut yields by up to 60 per cent.

In research funded by the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID), CABI now estimates the pest will cost just ten of the continent’s major maize producing economies in Africa a total of $2.2bn to $5.5bn a year in lost maize harvests – if the pest is not properly managed.

“Enabling our agricultural communities with quick and coordinated responses is now essential, to ensure the continent stays ahead of the plague,” said Dr Joseph DeVries, Vice President – Program Development and Innovation at AGRA.

As countries turn to pesticides to reduce the damage, farmers face the risk of the pest developing resistance to treatment, which has become a widespread problem in the Americas.

Biopesticides are a lower risk control option, but few of the biopesticides used in the Americas are yet approved for use in Africa, raising the need for urgent local trials, registration and the development of local production.

“Maize can recover from some damage to the leaves. So when farmers see damaged leaves, it doesn’t necessarily mean they need to control. Research is urgently needed, and a huge awareness and education effort is required so that farmers monitor their fields, and can make decisions on whether and how to control,” said Dr Roger Day, CABI’s Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) Coordinator.

“There are natural ways farmers can reduce impact, including squashing the eggs or caterpillars when they see them, and maintaining crop diversity in the farm, which encourages natural predators.”

CABI has also warned of the need to address the human health issues raised by any far more extensive use of chemical pesticides.

“Resource poor farmers are often unwilling or unable to buy the appropriate safety equipment and in some cases they use pesticides without appropriate application equipment. Farmers may also be disinclined to use safety equipment when hot weather makes it extremely uncomfortable. Recognizing that farmers will still want to use pesticides, specific measures are needed to make lower risk biopesticides more accessible,” said Dr Day.

You can see all the latest information and status reports about Fall Armyworm on the CABI website.


CABI (Centre for Agriculture and Biosciences International) is an international not-for-profit organization that improves people’s lives by providing information and applying scientific expertise to solve problems in agriculture and the environment.