The African cassava whitefly: outbreak causes and sustainable solutions project is searching for answers to the significantly increased cassava-whitefly abundance in the cassava-growing regions of East and Central Africa. Outbreaks of the African cassava whitefly are responsible for serious crop losses in nine East and Central African countries resulting in hunger, recurrent famines and annual losses of more than US$1.25 billion. Areas experiencing superabundant populations of the African cassava whitefly are continuing to expand.

The project is led by the Natural Resources Institute of the University of Greenwich and is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates foundation. It falls within the foundation’s Agricultural Development Strategy to increase sustainable productivity for millions of poor farming families in sub-Saharan Africa that depend on cassava as a key staple food crop.

In order to achieve its overall goal, the project has five main research aims:

  1. Gain the first definitive understanding of African cassava whitefly, Bemisia tabaci, systematics.
  2. Identify factors driving cassava whitefly outbreaks and super-abundance.
  3. Understand whitefly resistance in cassava and create the foundations for developing varieties that possess both whitefly and virus-disease resistances.
  4. Improve our understanding of cassava whitefly by conducting transcriptomic and genomic studies of African cassava whitefly.
  5. Establish socio-economic and base-line survey data for future impact assessments.

The project is a collaboration involving a truly global research team of over 50 scientists, postgraduate students, technicians and experts who, between them, will deliver 156 years of work inputs over a four-year project cycle.