One of the greatest threats to food security in Nigeria is the existence of the invasive arthropod pest called Fall Army Worm (FAW, Spodoptera frugiperda). According to research by IITA experts, FAW infected more than 80 plant species including maize, rice, and millet, with maize as its most preferred plant. Farmers in Nigeria have recorded losses of approximately 100% putting the overall cost of losses at approximately $13,383.
Research has shown that most farmers have responded to FAW attacks by relying on synthetic insecticides, neglecting infested farms, and switching to other crops such as cassava. This affects the cost of maize and leads to scarcity of raw materials for other products, such as animal feed, breakfast cereals, and other maize-based products. Reduced production also affects household income and contributes to poverty and food insecurity.
FAW was first reported in Nigeria in January 2016 in Oyo State, and by 2017, it had spread to 22 of the 36 states in the country. In 2018, it was reported to be present in all states and the Federal Capital Territory. FAW is proven to have a voracious appetite and can reproduce at a rapid rate.
It is important that farmers and other stakeholders know what to look out for and where to look in identifying the insect. At various stages, from egg to moth stage, the FAW can cause damage to crops. The eggs are pale yellow and less than 0.5 mm in size, and you can find 100-200 eggs in a mass. At the larva stage, the insects are light green in color with a ‘Y’ shaped pattern on its head. At the adult or moth stage, the insect is between 30-40 mm with a brown or grey fore- wing. Other things to look out for are damaged leaves and fruit and vegetable damage.
To manage the outbreak of FAW, the approaches are to advocate for an integration of various management strategies, such as surveillance and early warning, the use of pesticides, and the use of technology. According to IITA, trainings for all stakeholders will also be conducted to increase sensitization to the effects of FAW and how to combat it. The trainings will begin in Kano and Kaduna. The target is to train 100 extension agents from Kaduna and 100 from Kano, with 4000 farmers engaged via step-down training. In addition, at least 50 youths will be trained as FAW control services providers. These training will be both theoretical and practical to properly equip stakeholders with the information and skills needed to tackle these insects. Step-down training will also take place to ensure that the knowledge is passed down.