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Large number of African entries for Fall Armyworm Tech Prize

Large number of African entries for Fall Armyworm Tech Prize

AgricultureTop Stories
Most of the entries for the Fall Armyworm Tech Prize came from Africa

Nesta, on behalf of Feed the Future, has announced that 228 applications were received, mostly from Africa, for the global Fall Armyworm Tech Prize.

The prize aims to find digital solutions to identify, track and protect crops from the pest, which has devastated agricultural produce across the continent.

USAID’s Digital Inclusion team believes that 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 are not the only solutions to eradicating the worm, technological solutions can help serve as a force multiplier to an already strained advisory service.

Over 80% of the entries came from Africa. The five countries with the highest number of entries were Uganda 52, Nigeria 25, USA 23, Ghana 22 and Kenya 21.

Bhavik Doshi, Research and Impact Coordinator for Nesta, said they were extremely pleased.

“We are thrilled with this result as it’s a tremendous response,” said Doshi.

“We are also pleased that over 80% of the entries came from across Africa. It indicates that the people of Africa want to find solutions to the fall armyworm threat.”

The armyworm flies nearly 1,000 miles in just 30 hours and can easily migrate to neighbouring countries.  The female moth can lay up to a total of 1,000 eggs in her lifetime, and in its larvae stage, can cause significant damage to crops if not managed appropriately.

It has a taste for maize but also feeds on more than 80 species of plants including rice, sorghum, millet, sugarcane, vegetable crops and cotton.  In sub-Saharan Africa, over 200 million people depend on maize for food security as it is a staple cereal crop grown by farmers.

The Fall Army Worm (FAW) poses a serious threat to Africa’s food security and although there are solutions, the steps to take are different in each region. So far, the infestation, which started in 2016, has resulted in some containment measures being undertaken, but none are long-term or sustainable. Innovation and technology is believed to be crucial to finding solutions that can help mitigate the risk of decreasing food security in Africa. The value of small innovations means that farmers can start tackling the issue before it’s too late.

So far, there has been a substantial amount of information to sift through.

In order to control the spread of the pest, smallholder farmers need improved access to immediate, accurate and actionable information on how to treat and protect their crops.

So far, 51 of the 54 African nations have been affected. Given the rate of outbreak, interventions are needed at a transnational level. Information on how to treat the pest needs to be quickly transmitted to farmers and those who advise them. The problem requires digital tools and approaches that source, analyse and translate data for farmers and relevant stakeholders to make timely and accurate decisions to combat the spread of the armyworm.

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