A mobile application has been launched to enable farmers, agricultural workers and other partners to the fight against fall armyworm in Africa.
The app by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) will report the level of infestation, map the spread of this destructive pest as well as its natural enemies and measures that are effective in managing it.
Fall Armyworm Monitoring and Early Warning System (FAMEWS) mobile app provides valuable insights into how the insect changes over time and space to improve knowledge of its behavior.
The pest has already infected millions of hectares of maize in Africa, threatening the food security of more than 300 million people. By early this year, only 10 -mostly in the north of the continent-out of the 54 African states and territories had not reported infestations by the fast-spreading crop munching pest.
“The app will help us to build our collective knowledge of the Fall Armyworm in Africa and connect all the dots from how and where it spreads to what makes it weaker and less damaging,” said Mr Keith Cressman, FAO’s senior agricultural officer who led the development of the app together with the UN agency’s partners.
“The app is useful on two fronts: for farmers and agricultural workers in the direct management of their crops to prevent further infestations and reduce damage, providing vital analysis on risks, spread and management,” said Mr Cressman.
The data is validated by national Fall Armyworm focal points and transferred to a global web-based platform. It is then analyzed to give a real-time situation overview with maps of Fall Armyworm infestations and the most effective measures against it.
Initially implemented in Madagascar and Zambia, the app is being rolled out across all countries in sub-Saharan Africa through the FAO-supported Farmer Field Schools (FFSs) and other community-based forums. Updates to the app in the coming months will provide additional functionality such as an offline advisory system that provides immediate guidance to the user, based on the collected data, and a diagnostic tool that uses the camera of the mobile phone to determine Fall Armyworm damage levels to maize. The app is an integral part of FAO’s sustainable management programme of the Fall Armyworm in Africa. It supports all stages from early warning and monitoring to response and risk assessment.