A new invasive alien pest—southern armyworm, Spodoptera eridania (Stoll)—has been discovered in four countries in Africa

    The noctuid Spodoptera frugiperda, commonly known as Fall armyworm (FAW), has recently become a new invasive species on the African continent. The pest is polyphagous; its larval stage can feed on more than 80 plant species, including maize, rice, sorghum, millet, sugarcane, vegetable crops, and cotton. This species was detected for the first time by IITA Biodiversity Center. The first outbreaks were reported in West Africa early 2016. The pest subsequently spread to several countries and has now become established on over 22 million ha in 44 countries in Africa. Introduction pathways and periods are not certain but DNA-analyses demonstrate that there is likely to have been more than one introduction. FAW is having severe impacts on a wide range of key staple and cash crops, particularly maize. It is affecting the economies and jeopardizing millions of vulnerable communities relying on maize both as a subsistence crop as well as a source of household income. It is now evident that in the absence of efficient control methods, the arrival of FAW in sub-Saharan Africa will cause maize yield losses worth billions of USD.


    IITA hosted the West Africa FAW Regional Training and Awareness Generation Workshop in the premises of its station in Cotonou and the newly established Biorisk Management Facility (BIMAF), Benin, 13‒15 February 2018. The training was co-organized with key partners and attended by more than 85 participants from the 15 ECOWAS member states (including Resource Persons).


    Facing the challenges of the Fall Armyworm (FAW) invasions and other plant pests and diseases in Africa, the VIPS (Varsling Innen PlanteSkadegjørere) platform developed by Norwegian Institute of Bioeconomy Research (NIBIO) can be used for research and development and as a decision support tool designed to meet end-user needs. VIPS can be used for data collections through reports of observations and monitoring of the pest. When weather data are added to the VIPS “expert system” (the computer system working ‘behind the scenes’ using artificial intelligence to provide real-time decisions), this can act as a database for the development and validation of pest models, finally aiming at a decision support tool for implementation of IPM. The success of such a tool will depend on close coordination with projects related to the development of weather data services and research on FAW population dynamics to ensure validated and locally relevant models and input data. On the ground, the VIPS platform will integrate an improved version of the Farming Interface App (FIA) co-developed by IITA and partners at MSU. The new version will be developed in several local languages, tested, and deployed for 1) guiding farmers scouting in their own fields, 2) empowering them to take real-time decisions with regard to pest management, 3) feeding back to the VIPS expert system real-time data on crop phenology, performance, pest occurrence and severity for improving the accuracy of VIPS predictions at local and landscape levels.

    Ghislain Tepa-Yotto: Entomologist, BIMAF coordinator,
    Manu Tamò: Insect ecologist, IITA Representative in Benin,


    BIMAF works closely with the Benin Government to be at the forefront of establishing an international center for climate change resilient agriculture (CIRACC: Centre International de Recherche pour une Agriculture Résiliente aux Changements Climatiques). This idea was born after the visit of Dr Nteranya Sanginga, DG of IITA, to Benin’s President HE Patrice Talon who further championed the initiative at the Marrakech COP22. Since then, BIMAF has been invited to take part to a number of meetings with the Benin Government including Bonn COP23. CIRACC will be an international research and training institution hosted at IITA-Benin. It will link with BIMAF which will serve as the first module. The Government of Benin has now instructed key Ministries (Environment, Agriculture, Higher Education, Foreign Affairs) to go ahead towards the establishment of the Center. A core Working Group has been established including BIMAF and has provided consolidated recommendations among which are a need for a feasibility study in the near future; lobbying at ECOWAS, AUC, and G77 on climate change; and advocating the inclusion of the CIRACC initiative on the Poland COP24 agenda.


The Biorisk Management Facility (BIMAF) is designed to facilitate the development of multi-country projects beyond its geographic scope. BIMAF identifies new agricultural challenges and outlines future actions necessary to meet its priority goals. It also emphasizes the need for improved collaboration and coordination with existing strategies. Not only researchers but also the civil society including farming communities, non-government organizations, and public and private structures should be involved to sustainably address challenges posed by biotic stresses and climate change on agricultural production.

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