An outbreak of the fall armyworm caterpillar in several southern African nations has raised an alarm, with the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) warning they pose “a huge threat to food security”. Uganda was the most recent country where the pest was found.
Uganda’s Agriculture Minister Vincent Ssempijja said the presence of the innocuous looking but hugely destructive brown caterpillar had been confirmed in over 20 districts of the country.
“This will negatively impact on the nation’s food and nutrition security,” Ssempijja told a press conference in Kampala.
The caterpillars eat mainly maize, wheat, millet, potatoes, soy beans and rice – key food sources in southern and eastern Africa, where many areas are already struggling with shortages after years of severe drought.
Kampala has set aside 1bn shillings ($280,000, €257,000) for emergency response work including the distribution of pesticides and educational materials for farmers.