Climate change and a failing food system open the door to the armyworm pest

Press release - February 14, 2017
The fall armyworm has reared its ugly head in Africa wreaking havoc across the continent, destroying the maize crop which was much anticipated after droughts of the previous years. The armyworm pest is now present in Malawi, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Zambia and South Africa. In South Africa, this pest is new and the Government is working around the clock to deal with the infestation.

In response to the armyworm attack across most of Southern Africa, Greenpeace Senior Food For Life Campaigner Nokutula Mhene has said:

“As the climate continues to change, and weather becomes more erratic, it is likely that such pests will appear and thrive in areas where they were previously unable to. The armyworm has been known to appear especially after a severe drought, meaning that we may have more infestations as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change indicates that most of Africa will suffer drought under climate change. This will be compounded by the entrenched practice of monoculture which reduces bio-diversity including natural biological enemies of the Fall Armyworm. The current practices on the ground might mean that this pest will be resident for a long time should business as usual continue.

The status quo of agriculture needs to change. Industrial agriculture will not be able to withstand the threats of climate change. We urgently need to revamp the way we do agriculture and move towards eco-farming. Farmers can control pest damage and weeds effectively through natural means instead of chemical pesticides. African states must urgently prioritise ecological farming methods which combine modern science and innovation with respect for nature and biodiversity. It ensures healthy farming and healthy food. It protects the soil, the water and the climate. It does not contaminate the environment with chemical inputs or use genetically engineered crops.

The rise of the armyworm may only just be the beginning of more previously unknown pests reaching our fields. We cannot afford to sit back. We also cannot afford to rely on solutions that enable companies to profiteer at the expense of the farmers and consumers”.

Media contacts:

- Senior Campaign Manager; Food For Life campaign; +27 795 129 363

; Interim Communications Officer; Food For Life campaign; +254 77491 84 78