The crop damage caused by fall armyworm has put millions of livelihoods at stake across Sub-Saharan Africa. Its rapid spread has been projected to cause losses valuing $2.5 billion to $6.2 billion per year if left unabated. Fall armyworm has caused havoc for smallholder farmers across the region and become a serious threat to food security.
To help those affected, Feed the Future has been simultaneously trying to solicit new tools that communicate emerging research and information on how to battle the invasive pest to African farmers while also trying to ensure that those tools perform accurately and consistently. The Fall Armyworm Tech Prize is striking this balance–the competition is incentivizing innovators to submit solutions, but will only pay to reward those tools that are successfully tested in the field. One critical step in the prize process is testing to ensure that the 20 finalists selected actually work for the end-users’ contexts. Testing enables us to confidently say that the proposed solutions stand a good chance of mitigating the spread of fall armyworm.
In 1996 in response to the first international meeting on invasive alien species, the Global Invasive Species Programme (GISP) a collaboration between the Centre for Agriculture and Biosciences International (CABI), the International Union for Conservation (IUCN), and the Scientific Committee for Problems of the Environment (SCOPE), was launched. In 2001, GISP published a Global Strategy on Invasive Alien Species, shedding light on the magnitude of these invasive plant and animal species—which destroy agriculture and habitat—and outlined a global-scale response. In addition, the Conference of Parties (COP) to the Convention on Biological Diversity recognized the urgent need to address the impact of invasive species, and in 2002, COP6 included the adoption of Guiding Principles for the Prevention, Introduction and Mitigation of Impacts of Alien Species that Threaten Ecosystems, Habitats or Species.
It’s hard to believe that a small worm could destroy millions — millions of tons of crop yields, millions of dollars in farm income and millions of tons of food for families.
I’m talking about the Fall Armyworm (FAW), an invasive pest that has spread quickly across the African continent. Originally from the Americas, FAW was first reported in West Africa in early 2016 and now seriously threatens food supplies across the continent.