Kisumu — On farms across Africa, a seemingly innocuous brown and beige caterpillar is waging a silent war, devastating rural incomes and posing a major threat to the continent’s food supply. In just two years, the so-called fall armyworm has colonised three-quarters of Africa, according to the British-based Centre for Agriculture and Biosciences International. Its favourite food is maize, the staple on which over 200-million smallholder farming families depend for their livelihoods. The fall armyworm is believed to have made its bridgehead in West Africa after being accidentally brought in from South America, its native home, by sea or air cargo. It was first detected in Africa in 2016. "Since then, it has very rapidly spread across the entire continent. It’s reportedly now causing damage in more than 40 countries," says Boddupalli Prasanna, an expert at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre (CIMMYT) in Mexico. The larval, or caterpillar, armyworm is perfectly adapted...

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