The Fall Armyworm Tech Prize Process Note

Date published: March 25, 2019

Thematic Area



Fall armyworm (FAW) poses a serious threat to African food security. Originally from the Americas, FAW outbreaks first occurred in West Africa in early 2016 and are now on the verge of devastating food supplies across the continent, exacerbating global poverty and hunger. FAW attacks more than 80 different plants. Agriculture experts estimate the pest could cause losses of 8.3 million to 20.6 million metric tons of maize in just 12 African maize-producing countries annually, food that could feed 40.8 million to 101 million people. FAW can travel on air currents and move up to 1,600 kilometers in 30 hours, meaning it can easily migrate to surrounding farms and countries. As of June 2018, FAW has been identified in 45 African countries.

Given the spread and rate of the infestation, interventions are needed at a transnational level. In addition, smallholder farmers and those who advise them need appropriate information on how to respond and prevent the pest.

Digital technologies are increasingly being utilized to both analyze information and transmit it to smallholder farmers. Deploying these technologies can provide accurate, context-specific information to smallholder farmers and extension agents that help them make informed decisions in response to a new threat.

As a result, the Fall Armyworm Tech Prize aimed to source and support digital tools and approaches that provide timely, context-specific information that enables smallholder farmers and those who support them to identify, treat, and track incidence of fall armyworm in Africa.

This paper presents an overview of the Fall Armyworm Tech Prize and the learning from its implementation. In particular, it shows how the prize model was used to achieve each of the following:

-Sourcing, honing, and testing digital tools focused on combating fall armyworm;

-Building value for every participant and stakeholder;

-Fostering deep context-specificity;

-Utilizing a Lean Start-Up approach/designing with your customer;

-Encouraging the analysis and communication of relevant, timely, accurate, actionable, and accessible information; and

-Measuring demonstrated results.

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