Kinshasa, DRC – The United States Government, through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), is launching a five-year, $12 million investment to combat the spread of fall armyworm in maize among smallholder farmers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It will be implemented by Land O’Lakes Venture37, an American non-profit organization affiliated with Land O’Lakes, Inc., one of the United States’ largest farmer-owned agribusinesses. This award by the U.S. government is the first major attempt by the donor community in the DRC to control fall armyworm infestation since it began in 2016 and aligns with the focus on economic growth captured in the U.S. – DRC Privileged Partnership for Peace and Prosperity established in April 2019.
Maize is one of the primary staple foods in the DRC and is grown throughout the country, especially in the southern belt of Katanga and in Kasaï, Bandundu, and Bas-Congo provinces. In comparison to its neighbors, the DRC produces less maize per hectare due to limited investment and continued use of traditional approaches. The arrival of fall armyworm threatens to further undermine the DRC’s maize production.
Fall armyworm (Spodoptera frugiperda) is an agricultural pest that severely affects the production of maize, sorghum, and other cereals and is native to both tropical and subtropical regions of the Caribbean and in North and Central America. It is only recently that this pest has spread into Sub-Saharan Africa, inflicting widespread damage and threatening the livelihoods of millions of farmers and the food security of their families.
Infestations of the pest were first identified in the DRC in 2016 in Equateur and Katanga provinces. Since then, the pest has spread to most of the maize-producing areas, with few, if any, measures implemented to control the infestation. The pest can multiply itself several times during a single crop season, and it can attack maize plants at all growing stages.
The purpose of the USAID activity, titled “Management of Fall Armyworm in Maize,” is to deploy an integrated pest management (IPM) strategy that will help small farmers control the pest. The goal is to improve the lives of farmers by equipping them to resist the threat of the pest, thereby preventing further risks to their lives. To achieve this, USAID will partner with farmers and research institutions to develop appropriate local IPM approaches and to encourage long-term sustainability through linking with the private sector.