ADDIS ABABA, The outbreak of the Fall armyworm to various countries in Africa has the potential to affect more than 300 million people on the continent, who directly and indirectly depend on maize for food, according to International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE).

Speaking at a two-day workshop held in Addis Ababa Sunday, the Director of Research and Development at the ICIPE, Dr. Sunday Ekesi, said: Across sub-Saharan Africa, it is estimated that over 13.5 million tons of maize valued at 3.0 billion US dollars are at risk from Fall armyworm in the next year.

Noting the importance of conducting a collective action in a sustainable way to curb the spread of Fall armyworm, which is the caterpillar stage of a moth, he added: Research organizations, government institutions, farmers' organizations, and the private sector must combine their resources and shared commitment to safeguard food and health of communities in Africa.

Developing integrated pest management is of paramount importance to control the pest in a safe, environmentally friendly, affordable and effective manner, he told the the meeting, which discussed ways of preventing the spread of the pest.

Representatives of international and regional research institutions, private companies and countries affected y the pest discussed ways of prevention and control at the Fall Armyworm Workshop for East Africa.

The pest has spread to more than 25 African countries, with devastating impacts on more than 1.5 million hectares under maize and other cereals, it was learned.

Ethiopia is one of the affected countries. Out of the total 2.4 million hectares of land cultivated with maize in six regional states, about 455,000 hectares had been attacked by the pest. Some 85 percent of affected land has been treated with pesticides while handpicking was employed to save parts of the crops.

The ICIPE Country Head in Ethiopia, Tadele Tefera, said: The impact of the Fall armyworm is high. Million of framers have been affected, millions of households have been affected, and how much yields will be reduced by this armyworm is yet to be determined.

It was emphasised that regional action was required to manage the pest as it travels across borders, he said, adding that development partners and research institutions, among others, needed to join hands to stop the pest spreading.