ADDIS ABABA, The African Union (AU) has rallied all stakeholders on the continent to join hands in the fight against the Fall armyworm (FAW), a devastating pest originating from South America, which is now threatening Africa.

Addressing media briefing here Friday, AU Commission Deputy Chairperson Thomas Kwesi said the leadership of AU Commission was determined to do everything possible to control the spread of the FAW.

The commission is determined to work with regional economic communities (RECs) to support our member States to understand the nature of the Fall armyworm and how to manage and control it, he added. "In order to do this, the Commission is calling on everyone to join hands with us in the fight against this pest.

"For the commission to be effective in fulfilling its mandates, we need to receive regular and accurate information from technical organizations on the spread of the pest and its impact on crop yields and measures being taken to control it.

It is only with such information that the Commission can inform and mobilize the political leadership to fight this pest, Kwesi stressed. I call upon our development partners to provide financial support in generating knowledge on the Fall armyworm and in our efforts to mobilize our leaders to fight the pest."

The AU's Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture, Josefa Sacko, said the FAW was potentially a major threat to food security in Africa. The insect is already threatening nearly nine per cent of the total combined agricultural gross domestic product of the affected countries, she added.

The AU Department of Rural Economy and Agriculture has been actively working to understand the nature and the spread of FAW in the continent, it was disclosed at the media briefing. The FAW was first detected in central and western Africa in early 2016 -- in Benin, Nigeria, Sao Tome and Principe and Togo; and by late 2016, it had been detected in Angola, Botswana, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique Namibia, Niger, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.