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What you need to know about Venture37's work around Fall Armyworm
Data, science and the art of local agronomy, aligned with support and knowledge from a Fortune 200 U.S. agribusiness
The Call to Action from USAID: In a keynote address at the 2017 World Food Prize in Des Moines, Iowa, USAID Administrator Mark Green called on the private sector, research institutions, nonprofits and universities around the world to combat Fall Armyworm (FAW), an invasive and endemic pest that threatens farmers and food security across Africa and Asia.
 
What is Fall Armyworm? It’s a pest that is threatening food security and livelihoods across Africa and Asia. Our friends at Feed the Future provide background on it and broad efforts and best practices to mitigate its effects on staple crops including maize through their Fall Armyworm Portal.
  
What Venture37 is doing about it: A strategic approach with experienced private sector partners.
Farmers continue to struggle to combat a now endemic pest that ravages farm fields each agricultural season. They need the right tools, networks and information to succeed. In many of the places we work, access to these resources is a challenge. This is especially true during the COVID-19 pandemic.
 
Our high-level approach to crop ventures is built around this formula: data, science and the art of local agronomy. We work with strategic partners to understand the situation on the ground and build sustainable solutions. The same approach is true for FAW. That’s why we have connected our local field teams in Mozambique and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) with the agronomic expertise and digital solutions provided by our enterprise counterparts at Villa Crop Protection and WinField United.
 
[WinField United is an industry-leading seed, crop protection, agricultural services and agronomic insights business that helps farmers’ needs. Villa, co-owned by Land O’Lakes, Inc., is a South African company with a strong portfolio of productivity-enhancing crop protection and analytical services. Together they help farmers of all sizes sustainably improve their yields.]
 
Current work:
Supporting Crop Resilience in Mozambique
The Feed the Future Resilient Agricultural Market Activities Beira Corridor (RAMA-BC) project is educating maize farmers in Mozambique about the importance of intercropping fields with legumes through model family farms and behavior change campaigns. Since 2018, RAMA-BC has been working with experts from Villa. At the start of this work in 2018, Villa sent three experts to do an on-farm training with RAMA-BC agronomists and model farmers on a “push-pull” methodology for suppressing FAW. By teaching farmers to intercrop fields with legumes, RAMA-BC was already practicing the “push” portion of the methodology.
 
Trials with the University of Eduardo Mondlane show that legume intercropping reduces FAW infestation, through repelling moths before they lay eggs, and increasing numbers of beneficial FAW predator insects. The “pull” half involves advising farmers to not burn fields and leave indigenous grasses and woodland on the margins of the fields to pull pests like FAW away from vulnerable crops. In addition to mitigated FAW, these practices have the added benefit of maintaining biodiversity and reducing soil erosion.
 
Learn more about RAMA-BC’s work through a Mozambique farmer’s story, the point of view of an aspiring student agronomist, or through our CLA Case Competition Finalist submission.
 
Creating remote training modules for extension agents
In partnership with the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), we are collaborating with Villa to develop distance learning modules to support knowledge transfer in the areas of integrated pest management (IPM) and Good Agricultural Practices (GAP). Here, Villa is utilizing its background in providing agronomic advice and training to remotely build the capacity of extension agents, the input supply sector, and other implementing partners in key IPM/GAP topics including the responsible use of agrochemicals, monitoring and scouting of pests, and push-pull approaches. We are developing these modules with an eye toward adding value to the extensive body of training materials on the market, by focusing on key messages and behavior changes needed in order to support smallholders in mitigating the effects of FAW. Watch out for more information and online webinars to take part in these ongoing trainings.
 
Supporting Farmer Resilience
In the Democratic Republic of Congo, we’re implanting the USAID Management of FAW for Smallholder Farmers program (DRC M-FAW).. Launched in 2019, this project’s long-term goal is to enable smallholder farmer equal access to the necessary information, skills and appropriate inputs to safely and effectively manage FAW, and to increase maize yields. It is one of the largest active FAW programs in the world. This will allow the project to enhance food security, increase income generation and improve the livelihoods of maize producers in the DRC.
 
The FAW community has done a lot of work since Mark Green’s 2017 call to action. Our goal is to apply much of that research to this project and report back on lessons as we go.

Promoting Knowledge Sharing at the National Fall Armyworm Conference
From April 14 – 15, 2021, the DRC M-FAW project organized the first national conference on FAW in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo. The conference gathered representatives from the public and private sectors, international organizations, and civil societies to discuss how to control FAW in the DRC. Considering damages from the Fall Armyworm on maize nationwide and its impact on food security, this national conference raised awareness about FAW and supported knowledge sharing among participants. A secondary goal was to encourage the Government of the DRC to take ownership of and support DRC M-FAW’s initiatives and strategies for FAW control, including small maize farmers’ sustainability.
 
National and international scientists and experts shared presentations on their experiences and research results about all aspects of Fall Armyworm that are currently affecting maize production in Africa and the DRC and take action to combat FAW in DRC. As a result of the conference, some important recommendations were formulated to engage people at different levels, from smallholder farmer to the Ministry of Agriculture. Due to the success of the national conference, the project is hoping to host the conference on an annual basis.

Some past work in FAW, starting right after the Administrator’s Call-to-Action in late 2017:
Training seed suppliers with common approaches to FAW
In 2018, we worked with Villa, USAID, other implementing partners and host-country governments to conduct initial FAW assessments during early onset of FAW in Malawi and Mozambique. Villa later hosted a pan-African seed sector training at their headquarters in Johannesburg, South Africa drawing in 100 seed suppliers across 16 countries in Africa. Here, Villa provided expertise and agronomic advice to other private sector input suppliers across the continent. This collaboration also allowed for the development of common approaches to mitigate FAW amongst industry leaders while developing strategies to better serve their smallholder clientele. Several of these companies are private sector partners working with our RAMA-BC team.
 
Advancing locally appropriate ag tech, with support from WinField United
In 2018, we partnered with Land O’Lakes, Inc.’s WinField United to sponsor the USAID FAW Tech Prize. We collaborated with the Feed the Future team and the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research to create a competition that would source digital tools and approaches to provide timely, context-specific information to enable smallholder farmers to mitigate FAW. We leveraged the skillset and background of Joel Wipperfurth, Director of Ag Technology at WinField United, to serve as a strategic advisor and judge panelist. He reviewed and narrowed down 228 Tech Prize applications to a set of 20 finalists. From there, Joel participated in a co-creation and in-person judging event in Kampala, Uganda to award 6 grantees with the most promising technology solutions. Prizes totaled $450,000. Learn more about the Tech Prize Winners and Joel’s engagement via the WinField United blog and the Fall Armyworm Tech Prize website.
 
Interested in learning more or partnering with us on FAW? Contact John O’Connell, Program Director at Land O'Lakes Venture37
 
By Ashley Peterson 07/10/2020 #Blog