General or Other

Control Of Fall Armyworm In Uganda


  • As a result of the climate change and climate variability, Uganda is experiencing outbreak of new pests and diseases such as the coffee twig borer, banana bacterial wilt, cassava brown streak disease, tomato leaf miner, maize lethal necrosis and now the Fall Armyworm. This will negatively impact the nation’s food and nutrition security and wealth creation efforts.
  • The population is urged to be on the lookout and report any new pest or disease to the nearest Agricultural Officer.
  • The Ministry of Agriculture and her agencies (NARO, UCDA, CDO, NAADS) are working tirelessly to develop effective control methods and these are being availed to farmers.
  • In the second season of 2016, MAAIF received reports of a severe outbreak of “caterpillars” on maize plants in the districts of Kasese, Kayunga and Bukedea. A reconnaissance visit made to these districts found that almost 40% of the maize crops in the fields visited were attacked by an unknown pest.
  • The National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO) has confirmed identity the pest as a moth commonly known as the fall army worm (Spodoptera frugiperda) using DNA sequencing. 

Facts on Fall Army Worm (FAW)

  • The fall army worm is native to tropical and subtropical regions of the Americas. How it arrived in Africa is not clear.  There is suspicion, however, that the pest could have been introduced as a result of increased in trade (imports) of Agricultural commodities across continents and the pest’s migratory nature of 2000km per annum could have facilitated its entry into Uganda.
  • First observed in Nigeria in January 2016, the pest is now reported in several other countries including Togo, Ghana, Zambia, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia and Kenya.
  • The pest is known to feed on more than 80 plant species, including cereals (maize, millet, sorghum, sugarcane, rice and wheat), legumes (cowpea, groundnuts and soybean), cotton and many pasture grasses (Rhodes grass, Kikuyu grass, Lucerne and other pasture grasses) that are the source of cattle feed in the country.
  • The destructive stage of the pest is the caterpillar. It can be identified by its inverted Y mark on the front of the head and four large spots towards the end of the abdomen. The caterpillar feeds aggressively on most parts of the plant including the leaves, stems, maize cobs and tassels except the roots.
  • The symptoms of damage include leaf perforation, defoliation, perforated cobs and damaged grains. This feeding damage results in a reduction in both yield and grain quality.
  • The adult moths move in large swarms at night with each female laying up to 2000 eggs and the emerging caterpillars are aggressive feeders with the potential to destroy a hectare within 72 hours in its later stages.
  • The fall army worm is particularly hard to control, as the moths are strong flyers, capable of covering 2000 km per year.

Status of the fall army worm in the country

  • The pest was first detected in the three districts of Kayunga, Kasese and Bukedea between May and July 2016. To date, the pest has been confirmed in over twenty (54) districts including; Kibaale, Kamwenge, Masindi, Nwoya, Mayuge, Kyenjojo, Mukono, Kamuli, Luwero, Rakai, Buliisa, Kabarole, Kumi, Serere, Kibaale, Kiryandongo, Luuka, Bugiri and Iganga and continues to spread to other districts at a very high rate.
  • The Ministry of Agriculture and NARO have so far confirmed damages on maize sorghum, rice, Kikuyu grass, Napia grass and sugarcane crops.
  • As an emergency intervention, MAAIF is advising farmers to use a pesticide combination of Lambda-cyhalothrin (106g/l) and Thiamethoxam (141g/l) (STRIKER 247 SC or ENGEO K 247 SC)and Rocket at a rate of 20-30mls in 15 – 20 litres of water as we explore more sustainable management measures
  • Information, Education and Communication materials (IEC materials) on identification and management of the pest have been developed and shared with all the 116 Districts.

Potential impact of the fall armyworm

  • While we are yet to establish the impact figures of the pest in Uganda, Zambia estimated a loss of 130,000 hectares of maize to the pest in one season. Zambia spent US$3,000,000 in an attempt to control the pest and Kenya has now set aside US$1,000,000 for anticipated control of the pest.
  • Uganda produces close to four million metric tons of maize grain annually making it the third highest crop produced. Maize contributes to the livelihoods of over 3.6 million households (UBOS2014). Based on the estimated yield loss of 15%-75% elsewhere, the presence of the FAW in Uganda could translate to an annual loss of at least 450,000 metric tonnes of maize that is equivalent to US$192,857,000.
  • The figures that we have are only reflective of maize, however, the pest affects more crops mentioned earlier thereby heightening the potential loss to the economy.
  • Our Government has set aside UGX 4.5 billion which is now being used to control this pest.

Government Intervention

  • Constitution of a taskforce
    • A task force with representation from the MAAIF, NARO, Private Sector, Uganda National Farmers’ Federation, OWC and Office of the Prime Minister has been constituted to develop action plans for effective management of the fall armyworm both in the short and long term.
    • A Technical committee comprising of NARO and MAAIF is in place to guide on implementation of pest outbreak management
    • An Advisory committee is going to be constituted to help in advocacy and lobbying for financial support
  • Communication
  • In order to achieve consistency in messaging, we recommend that the designated spokespersons are the Permanent Secretary and Minister in MAAIF and Director General, NARO together with authorized Public Relations Officers from either one or both entities
  • A strategic Communications plan that includes a robust stakeholder engagement plan and budget has been developed.
  • Control measures was launched in Mukono on Friday 6th 2017 and now the district by district has started.
  • Research
  • NARO has identified the pest as a moth known as Fall armyworm (Spodoptera frugiperda) using DNA sequencing
  • NARO observed in its confined field trial that BT maize is tolerant to the pest. This confirms similar observations understudies conducted in the USA and Brazil
  • NARO is monitoring, collecting and identifying any outbreak of the pest in new areas
  • NARO is currently conducting studies on biology and ecology with the aim of:
    • Understanding the pest under our local conditions
    • Identifying potential natural enemies for biological control
  • Emergency response
  • Procurement:
    • MAAIF has procured some emergency pesticides (Lambda-cyhalothrin (106g/l) and Thiamethoxam (141g/l) about 2,500 which is known to have worked successfully elsewhere in the control of FAW
    • MAAIF has also procured some light and pheromone traps for pest surveillance
    • MAAIF has also procured some motorized pumps and all other related items
  • Capacity Building:
    • MAAIF in partnership with District Local Governments are creating awareness and sensitization about the pest
    • MAAIF in partnership with District Local Governments will conduct training of farmers on safe use of agro-chemicals in management of the pest.
  • Implementation of Emergency Control measures
    • MAAIF in partnership with District Local Governments will mobilize communities to carry out the agreed control measures
    • Feedback from district agriculture staff and farmers on the efficacy of the supplied pesticides on the pest to be provided.


  • Farmers, Extension Staff and the general public are requested to promptly report any outbreaks to the District Agricultural Officers (DAOs), Department of Crop Protection and National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO) for guidance on the interim measures of managing the pest.
  • Although the fall armyworm is a new pest, emergency measures have been put in place to avert severe effects on crop and livestock productivity.
  • Research is ongoing to establish long-term effective and robust control measures for the pest.


Hon. Ssempijja B. Vincent

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