Scientists have warned of an impending food crisis in Africa, following the rapid spread of an alien armyworm, which is destroying maize crops across the continent at an unprecedented rate.
The Center for Agriculture and Biosciences International (CABI) is now calling for immediate action by African governments and other relevant authorities to stop further spread of the pest, reports the BBC.
CABI says farmers’ livelihoods in Africa and other parts of the world are in danger as the larva now threatens to reach Asia and the Mediterranean.
New Entrant in Africa
The armyworm is an invasive larva that eats through most of the vegetation in its way as it moves through crops.
This destructive worm is native to North and South America, and it’s the first time it is being witnessed in Africa.
“This invasive species is now a serious pest, spreading quickly in tropical Africa and with the potential to spread to Asia,” CABI’s chief scientist, Dr. Matthew Cock, said.
Scientists suggest that the caterpillar or its eggs may have arrived in Africa through imported produce. When this larva establishes itself in an area, adult moths fly large distances and spread quickly.
Scientists now say the worm has been discovered in West Africa and is believed to have spread to several south and east African regions, the majority of which depend on maize as their staple diet.
“The recent discovery of fall armyworm in Africa will be a huge threat to food security and also trade in the region,” Dr. Jayne Crozier of CABI added.
The Food and Agriculture Organization has called for an emergency meeting in Harare, Zimbabwe’s capital, between 14 and 16 February to discuss the way forward.
Zambia is currently using army planes to spray affected regions with pesticides.
The armyworm outbreak comes at a time when many African countries are grappling with the serious effects of climate change, which has rendered many parts of the continent uncultivable, exposing the population to persistent drought and famine.