The SDSN’s Thematic Network on Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems hosted a virtual, e-conference on fall armyworm (FAW) in Africa from October 22 to 26, 2018. Fall armyworm is an agricultural pest native to the Americas but introduced to Africa in 2015 or 2016. In the 3-4 years since its introduction, it has spread across the entire continent and is responsible for maize yield losses ranging from 20-50%. This is especially challenging for smallholder farmers, where yield declines result in lost income and hunger, and who often lack the knowledge or financial resources to recognize and respond to new pest species.

A number of experts presented on the challenge of FAW and solutions, in particular how to move away from the overuse of broad-spectrum pesticides, which are often ineffective and potentially harmful to human and environmental health, towards more effective responses such as integrated pest management (IPM), push-pull, and early warning systems. View the agenda. View the video playlist.

Monday, October 22 – FAW Identification and Infestation

On the first day of the conference participants heard from two presenters; Peter Chinwada from IITA described FAW identification and recognition of field infestation in maize agroecosystems (slides), while Frederic Baudron of CIMMYT shared research on factors that contribute to the level of FAW infestation in African smallholder maize fields and quantifying impact on yield (slides). Watch the video.

Tuesday, October 23 – FAW Monitoring and Initial Responses

On the second day of the conference Keith Cressman from FAO presented on FAW monitoring and the early warning system FAMEWS (slides), Paul Jepson of Oregon State University presented on the role for pesticides within FAW integrated pest management, and Step Aston of One Acre Fund shared some responses to FAW outbreaks amongst smallholder farmers (slides). Watch the video.

Wednesday, October 24  – Recommended Responses to FAW

On the third day of the event we heard from three presenters. Joseph Huesing of USAID presented their recent guide on integrated pest management for FAW (slides). Allan Hruska of FAO then presented their guide on sustainable management of FAW for smallholder farmers (slides). Ivan Rwomushana of CABI then shared communication approaches for sustainable FAW management, and opportunities to disseminate information to farmers (slides). Watch the video.

Thursday, October 25 – Breeding, Bt and Push-Pull Options

On the fourth day of the e-conference Isaac Oyediran of Syngenta presented on the role of Bt technology in sustainable agriculture and FAW responses (slides), while Charles Midega of icipe shared work on applying push-pull principles to FAW in maize (slides). Watch the video.

Friday, October 26 – FAW Innovations

In the closing session of the conference, we opened with two lectures. Prasanna Boddupalli of CIMMYT gave a presentation on breeding for resistance to FAW in Africa (slides), while Kenneth Wilson of Lancaster University and the Armyworm Network shared the prospects for using biopesticides for the control of FAW in Africa (slides). After these two presentations, we heard a number of pitches for exciting new technologies for FAW control:

  • Igeza is an AI, GIS, and IVR-driven FAW detection and management
    system, presented by Priscilla Obeng of Henson Geodata Technologies (slides)
  • Africa Rising was presented by Hugh Gosnell of Africa Rising Technologies
  • UDefeatFAW was presented by Ellen Galdava of FHI 360
  • Buuza Agripoll is a smart survey tool presented by Mahad Kateregga of Technoplus IT Solutions
  • Boa Me is a digital technological solution for FAW, working with Omni-AI & the
    Farmer’s Friend mobile device to identify and defeat “the next fall
    armyworm.” Presented by Kofi Obo Wood of Limitless Apps Studios & Limitless AI (slides)
  • MyAgro is a “complete” solution to FAW, presented by Natalie Brown of myAgro (slides)

Watch the video.

Participants also connected via an online discussion forum that will remain active beyond the virtual conference; if you would like to join, please register online. The video recordings of the sessions have been viewed several hundred times. The conference enrolled about 500 participants from around the world, although a significant majority of participants were based in Africa. Stay tuned for next steps, including future e-conferences!

Testimonials

Teun Dekker: Thanks a lot for organizing the FAW e-conference. We received very useful information for a variety of stakeholders, and specifically for me some insights in control and good data for use in e.g. talks, teaching, grant writing etc. It was too difficult to attend the conference this week in Addis, but this e-conference was already useful.

Katherine Cameron: I really enjoyed the e-conference and thought it was a really neat format, facilitating access for participants from all over the world without the high costs of travel. I learnt a lot through listening to the sessions and being able to ask questions of the presenters. Thanks again for organising such a worthwhile and informative conference.