Drought and armyworm threaten Africa’s food security

Sunday July 02 2017

African Union Commissioner of Rural Economy and Agriculture Josefa Sacko. ANDUALEM SISAY | NATION MEDIA GROUP

The ongoing drought in the Horn and southern African countries and armyworms invasion, pose a major food security threat to the continent, official said.

The African Union Commissioner of Rural Economy and Agriculture, Mrs Josefa Sacko, said armyworms affected maize production in close to half of the African countries, especially those already under stress due to the recent droughts in the Horn and southern Africa.

“It is an eminent emergency we need to address. The African Union is very concerned about the devastation caused by the fall armyworm and the impact it will have on food security in the affected countries, especially those already under stress due to the recent droughts in the Horn of Africa and in Southern Africa,” said Mrs Sacko.

The AU Commission said it learnt that so far, a total of 1.5 million hectares of land in 25 African countries were infected by the pest.

Attacking maize

The pest is believed to originate from America and started attacking maize crops in western African countries such as Nigeria and Ghana.


Though there were efforts to combat the pest at country level, the Commission did not believe the spread would be stopped anytime soon.

The AU Commission stated that Zambia and Ghana had allocated $3 and $4 million, respectively, to the fight against the fall armyworm.

“The AU is taking leadership and partnering with FAO to develop an intervention programme to support AU member states because we know this pest will not be eradicated in a short time.

Have failed

"We can build on the success of Ebola example and mobilise the private sector in Africa,” Mrs Sacko said at a press conference in Addis Ababa, on the sideline of the African leaders meeting expected to open on Monday.

South Sudan, Ethiopia and Nigeria, among others, were experiencing famine and drought, according to the Commissioner.

In addition to drought and fall armyworm, the fact that many African countries had given less attention to agriculture and agribusiness development, had also contributed to the continent's food shortage tragedy, according to the Commission.

Many African countries have failed to implement the 2010 Abuja Declaration that calls for allocation of 10 per cent of their GDP to agriculture development, thus contributing to the current poor resistance and worsening food insecurity.

Africa currently spends close to $35 billion annually on food import, according to reports.