To solve the future food needs in sub-Saharan Africa, entomologists must be a critical part of the puzzle. From Nigeria to Ethiopia, South Africa to Chad, African smallholder farmers often face severe crop losses from damaging bugs from locusts to cassava’s whiteflies, cowpea pod borers or maize and sorghum stem borers. According to the Center for Agriculture and Biosciences International (CABI), pests, (some emerging due to climate change or shifts in land use), reduce African crop harvests by 50%. Most smallholder farmers don’t have the ability to diagnose crop problems quickly and often have no means or knowledge to control these pests. With climate change and increased movement of goods and people, emerging pests will worsen an already serious problem.
Now, a foreign caterpillar from the Americas, the fall armyworm (FAW) Spodoptera frugiperda is quickly invading the continent, swallowing entire fields of maize, but also sorghum, millets and many other staple crops. There were already armyworms in Africa –worldwide – but the fall armyworm is particularly voracious and versatile, and spreads fast.