It’s hard to believe that a small worm could destroy millions – millions of tons of crop yields, millions of dollars in farm income, and millions of tons of food for families.

I’m talking about the Fall Armyworm (FAW), an invasive pest that has spread quickly across the African continent. Originally from the Americas, FAW was first reported in West Africa in early 2016 and now seriously threatens food supplies across the continent.

The pest has a catastrophic combination of traits. It travels fast (at up to 1,600 kilometers in 30 hours). It loves maize, a staple food crop in Africa (as well as 80 other plant species) (CIMMYT), and, it’s active at night and burrows into plants, making it hard to spot and treat.

FAW has now been identified in well over 40 African countries (FAO), and agriculture experts estimate the pest could cause losses of up to 20 million metric tons of maize in just 12 African maize producing countries annually (University of Exeter and CABI).

To avoid such losses, it is imperative to get information into the hands of farmers so they can properly identify and manage FAW. However, given the rapid spread, and, the lack of precedent on the African continent, it has been challenging to get up-to-date and accurate information on the pest.

That’s why Feed the Future, together with Land O’Lakes International Development and the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research, launched the Fall Armyworm Tech Prize, aimed at leveraging the immense progress in mobile and digital technology to get timely, context-specific, and actionable information into the hands of smallholder farmers and those who support them.