In 1996 in response to the first international meeting on invasive alien species, the Global Invasive Species Programme (GISP) a collaboration between the Centre for Agriculture and Biosciences International (CABI), the International Union for Conservation (IUCN), and the Scientific Committee for Problems of the Environment (SCOPE), was launched. In 2001, GISP published a Global Strategy on Invasive Alien Species, shedding light on the magnitude of these invasive plant and animal species—which destroy agriculture and habitat—and outlined a global-scale response. In addition, the Conference of Parties (COP) to the Convention on Biological Diversity recognized the urgent need to address the impact of invasive species, and in 2002, COP6 included the adoption  of Guiding Principles for the Prevention, Introduction and Mitigation of Impacts of Alien Species that Threaten Ecosystems, Habitats or Species.

So, given that invasive alien species were previously acknowledged as a problem and frameworks to combat them were put in place, it might be surprising that there was no initial, robust response from the international community to the 2016 fall armyworm outbreak in Africa. While the threat of invasive species had always been real, it required an outbreak of this very hungry caterpillar in Africa to translate the theoretical threat into a tangible and significant problem for the international community, governments, and the smallholder farmers directly affected by the pest.

Fall armyworm has spread rapidly across Sub-Saharan Africa, and in 2016 scientists at CABI projected that in the absence of any control measures potential annual losses to agriculture could reach $2.5 billion to $6.2 billion. And what makes this projection even more alarming is that Africa already struggles to produce enough food for the population and meet demand for exports without the presence of an invasive species like fall armyworm. Smallholder farmers and communities across the region that rely on agriculture have been hit especially hard, making fall armyworm a serious threat to food security.