By Dr Ulrich Kuhlmann, Executive Director Global Operations, CABI
All farmers are affected by pests and diseases attacking their crops, but smallholder farmers and their dependents in low- and middle-income countries are disproportionately affected. To put it in perspective, there are about 500 million smallholder farmers worldwide who feed about 70% of the world’s population. When you cultivate less than a hectare (2.5 acres) of land and rely on your crops for both sustenance and income, fighting pests can become a battle for life and death. International trade and climate change are exacerbating the problem by altering and accelerating the spread of crop pests.
Occasionally, when a particularly destructive pest surfaces, it can make headline news. Last year it was reported that the tomato leaf miner moth (tuta absoluta) was wreaking havoc across Africa, causing USD 5 million of damage in Nigeria alone and driving up the price of tomatoes, a food staple. Earlier this year, the fall armyworm made the news for devastating maize crops from Ghana to South Africa. But for smallholder farmers the battle against pests is a daily struggle, not an intermittent occurrence.