14th May 2018
Fall armyworm (FAW) poses a serious threat to food security in sub-Saharan Africa. Originally from the Americas, FAW outbreaks first occurred in West Africa in early 2016 and are now on the precipice of devastating food supplies across the continent, exacerbating global poverty and hunger. FAW attacks more than 80 different plant species and agriculture experts estimate the pest may cause over $13 billion in losses for crops like maize, sorghum, rice, and sugarcane. It can also fly up to 1,600 kilometers (nearly 1,000 miles) in 30 hours meaning it can easily migrate to surrounding farms and countries.
Given the spread and rate of the outbreak, interventions are needed at a transnational level. Information on how to respond and prevent the pest needs to quickly be transmitted to smallholder farmers and those who advise them.
In order to control the spread of FAW and reduce the risk of a future humanitarian crisis, smallholder farmers need improved access to immediate, accurate and actionable information on how to mitigate, identify and combat the fall armyworm. Digital technologies can be utilised in expanding the frontiers of information access to sub-Saharan Africa. Increasingly available digital technologies including sensors, geospatial imagery and data analytics can be leveraged to allow smallholder farmers to gain useful advice and make informed decisions.
About the Prize
At present, FAW in Africa threatens harvests and economic growth on a continental scale. Feed the Future, the U.S. Government’s global hunger and food security initiative, aims to transform lives toward a world where people no longer face extreme poverty, undernutrition and hunger. To achieve this, Feed the Future works hand-in-hand with partner countries to develop their agriculture sectors and break the cycle of poverty and hunger. In particular, Feed the Future aims to:
- Increase agricultural productivity and generate opportunities for economic growth and trade in developing countries.
- Boost the harvests and incomes of rural smallholder farmers, who are the key to unlocking agricultural growth and transforming economies.
- Improve agricultural research and development and get existing, proven technologies to more people.
- Increase resilience to prevent recurrent crises and help communities better withstand and bounce back from crises when they do happen.
Five prizes totalling $400,000 in prizes will be made as follows:
- One grand prize of $150,000 to the most viable solution
- Two significant awards of $75,000 to the most promising solutions
- Two up and comer awards of $50,000 to early stage developments that show the most potential
With advances in digital communications, social networks, satellite imagery, electronic data collection and sharing, sensing technologies, crowdsourcing, and the global movement to share open data, more information than ever can be efficiently communicated and made relevant for farmers. While digital tools and approaches are not the only solutions to fall armyworm (and depending on the context, may not be appropriate), technological solutions can help serve as a force multiplier to already strained advisory services.