The fall armyworm (scientifically known as Spodoptera frugiperda) is an invasive pest that has inflicted substantial damage on maize crops in Africa. 

Experts estimate that 12% of maize destruction in the region can be attributed to climate change. 

Originating from tropical and subtropical America, this pest has rapidly spread across the African continent since its initial detection in Western Africa in 2016.


Climate change, characterized by rising temperatures and shifting weather patterns, has played a pivotal role in the spread and proliferation of the fall armyworm in Africa.

Climate change significantly impacts pest spread in African agriculture. Rising temperatures and shifting weather patterns create ideal breeding conditions, leading to extensive crop losses. 

The fall armyworm, originally from the Americas, has invaded Africa due to warmer climates, abundant host plants, and its ability to infest various crops.

Its rapid spread is facilitated by a preference for maize, infesting over 350 plant species, prolific egg-laying, and adult moths’ long-distance travel. 

Climate-induced factors like higher temperatures, extreme weather, and rainfall changes directly affect crop yields, food prices, and livelihoods. 

These environmental shifts create favorable conditions for pests, posing significant challenges to regional agricultural systems.

The fall armyworm infestation in African agriculture, exacerbated by climate change, carries significant economic consequences, amounting to approximately $6 billion annually across 12 African countries.

This economic burden directly impacts food security and livelihoods in the region. The pest’s devastation of maize crops, sorghum, millet, and legumes has led to substantial losses, with maize alone accounting for up to 58% of the total losses, totaling US $9.4 billion. 

This substantial economic impact worsens food insecurity for over 200 million Africans who rely on maize as a staple food. 

The economic losses from the fall armyworm infestation exacerbate the already challenging situation for smallholder farmers, leading to increased hunger and vulnerability within communities.

The disruption caused by the pest, combined with the challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, highlights the vulnerability of agricultural systems to crises and underscores the urgent need for recovery efforts to enhance resilience and ensure food security for smallholder farmers in Africa

Governments and organizations in sub-Saharan Africa are actively combating the fall armyworm through planning, awareness campaigns, and collaborative efforts. 

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is assisting in coordinating these activities. However, controlling the pest is challenging due to its rapid spread, wide plant preferences, and fast reproduction.


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 Failure to effectively manage the fall armyworm could hinder Africa’s efforts to reduce poverty and hunger. 

To safeguard food and farms, African nations are advised to swiftly establish teams focusing on early detection, understanding societal and economic impacts, employing effective management strategies, and developing regulations.

Additionally, the CGIAR and CIMMYT are contributing by utilizing tools, assessing impacts, and exploring various management approaches. 

Media coverage has highlighted the pest’s detrimental effects on crops, seeds, health, environment, and trade, posing a significant threat to Africa’s food security, particularly in small farms with mixed crops.

Climate change’s impact on fall armyworm infestation in African agriculture is a major concern for food security and livelihoods. 

This destructive moth has rapidly spread across Africa since its 2016 detection in Nigeria. Climate change, with irregular rains and early rainstorms, aids its migration.

 The fall armyworm is challenging to control due to its feeding behavior, short life cycle, ability to travel long distances, and wide range of host plants. 

Technology, like drones, is crucial for detecting and monitoring armyworms, enabling more targeted pest control. 

Push-Pull technology, planting insect-repellent legumes alongside cereal crops, has been effective, reducing infestation by over 80% and increasing grain yields. It’s a suitable, environmentally friendly, and cost-effective strategy for pest management.

Here is more about fall armyworms;