Detection of the spread of parasites in Africa using satellites


Can satellite remote sensing be used to track the spread of the Fall ArmyWorm in Sub-Saharan Africa.


The uncontrolled spread of Fall ArmyWorm (Spodoptera frugiperda) across Africa is projected to cause maize yields losses of 20.6 million tonnes or more, equating to over 50% of production. In Malawi, the government declared a state of disaster in 2017/2018 due to pest damage to the national maize crop, affecting thousands of acres and over 138,000 farming families. Fall ArmyWorm populations are limited by frosts and predators in its natural habitat (the Americas), the absence of which in Africa may have contributed to its rapid spread throughout the continent. Typical monitoring and control of such pests is done in the field at great financial cost. Such costs are unachieved for countries, such as Malawi, where the pest has had devastation financial and humanitarian costs on the country.


ProvEye has developed as a monitoring tool for Self-Help Africa that uses high-resolution satellite imagery to detect the presence of Fall ArmyWorm and the severity of crop damage with over 80% accuracy. The tool uses AI to look at subtle changes in colour using as an indicator of the presence of the pest and the severity of the crop damage. It is planned to roll out this tool on a national scale for Maize and other crops, with NGO’s, extension officers, private companies and governments benefiting for the real time data stream.  Such a resource would be invaluable to countries, such as Malawi, where food security is critical to the health of the nation.

This work has been kindly funding by the World Band and the Foundation for Food and Agriculture. Further links to this work can be found in: