Cookies on CABI

Like most websites we use cookies. This is to ensure that we give you the best experience possible.


Continuing to use  means you agree to our use of cookies. If you would like to, you can learn more about the cookies we use.

Search this site
Sign up for the CABI e-zine Newsletter
Improving lives by solving problems in agriculture and the environment

Action on Invasives

Invasive species impact the livelihoods of the rural poor who are dependent on natural resources for income and survival. They also undermine international development investment. CABI is developing an ambitious programme to address this complex problem. We aim to target local, national and regional communities and will work across sectors. We want to create a truly integrated and sustainable framework to the problem of invasive species to generate growth, create jobs and help reduce poverty.

Project Overview

So, what's the problem

Increased global trade has an unfortunate side effect – the rapid spread of invasive species. Imported plants, insects and pathogens can all have an adverse impact on human, animal, agricultural and environmental health. 

Invasive species are estimated to cost the global economy over US$1.4 trillion annually. These pests disregard national borders and unmanaged, can be global in their impact. They can undermine major investments in development, and significantly affect the livelihoods of vulnerable rural communities who depend on natural resources and ecosystem health for their survival. 

Unappreciated by many, the burden of invasive species weighs particularly heavily on the poorest and most vulnerable. Throughout Southeast Asia for example, invasive species cost at least US$33 billion annually (US$55 per capita), reducing GDP by up to 5%. 

Invasive species are often not recorded or new outbreaks responded to, leading to the pest rapidly establishing. Solutions do however exist. In the past, efforts have been piecemeal and uncoordinated, without the application of long-term systematic management policies. This is largely due to the lack of collaboration between key national stakeholders (especially agriculture, trade and environment sectors). They have also failed to involve local communities. 

Sustainable invasive species intervention demands concerted action at local, national, regional and international levels. This will enable information flow, good communication between stakeholders, and efficient and sustainable management infrastructure in order to promote and prioritize action. 

What is this project doing?

Experts at CABI can help prevent the spread of new invasive species, detect them if they cross borders and minimize their impact if they take hold. Adopting a systematic approach to tackling the worst invasive species will reduce the economic damage caused by invasive species in agriculture, the natural environment and trade. 

To do this, we want to capture, collate and build peoples’ capacity to deploy known prevention and control measures which are based on internationally recognized Integrated Pest Management (IPM) protocols. These are similar to those for preventative vaccines, polio eradication and malaria control etc. We will also develop new and effective management practices for rural communities. 

This takes a three-staged approach to tackle the problem: prevention, early detection and control. We will work with different professional sectors so that they can apply a coordinated response to prevent invasive species including agreed action plans for any new potential new threats. Early detection activities will implement robust surveillance and emergency action plans and a rapid response will resolve new problems. 

This approach will be underpinned by a growing international network of plant clinics provided by CABI’s Plantwise programme which supports farmers with plant health advice and records any pest outbreaks. This then facilitates a rapid and efficient response. 

When a new invasive species appears, or an existing one needs tackling, the programme will bring together pre-existing technologies that are environmentally sound, or deploy safe and effective biological control agents which will sustainably manage the problem long-term. Selected proven technology packages will be rapidly and comprehensively disseminated to local communities. 

The programme will also invest in research and trials on biological control agents in line with the Access and Sharing Benefits of the Convention of Biological Diversity’s Nagoya protocol.

The ultimate intention is to protect and restore agricultural and natural ecosystems and resources, increase crop yields, improve health, protect trade and reduce the degradation of protected areas.


An essential element of the programme will be continual stakeholder communication to gather feedback, coordinate solution adaptations and evaluate impact.

See some recent news on our work from the BBC and on SciDev.

See for more information on our programme and on two of the invasive species we are currently working on, Fall armyworm and Parthenium.

The team

Project Manager

Staff image of Roger Day

Roger Day  Programme Executive, Action on Invasives

Canary Bird
673 Limuru Road
PO Box 633-00621
T +254 20 2271000

Project team

Staff image of Julien Godwin

Julien Godwin

Programme Support Manager, Action on Invasives

Staff image of Abdul Rehman

Abdul Rehman

Deputy Director Programme

Staff image of Gareth Richards

Gareth Richards

Content Manager, Compendia

Related publications CABI book shop

Fall Armyworm Evidence Note September 2017 P.Abrahams, M.Bateman, T.Beale, V.Clottey, M.Cock, Y.Colmenarez, N.Corniani, R.Day, R.Early, J.Godwin, J.Gomez, P.Gonzalez Moreno, S.T. Murphy, B.Oppong-Mensah, N.Phiri, C.Pratt, S.Silvestri, A.Witt

Fall Armyworm Evidence Note (Summary version) September 2017 P.Abrahams, M.Bateman, T.Beale, V.Clottey, M.Cock, Y.Colmenarez, N.Corniani, R.Day, R.Early, J.Godwin, J.Gomez, P.Gonzalez Moreno, S.T. Murphy, B.Oppong-Mensah, N.Phiri, C.Pratt, S.Silvestri, A.Witt

Corin F. Pratt, Kate L. Constantine, Sean T. Murphy. (2017) Economic impacts of invasive alien species on African smallholder livelihoods. Global Food Security

Witt, A., Kiambi, S; Beale., T. and van Wilgen, B.W. A preliminary assessment of the extent and potential impacts of alien plant invasions in the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem, East AfricaKoedoe - African Protected Area Conservation and Science 59(1) · May 2017 DOI: 10.4102/koedoe.v59i1.1426

Ross T. Shackleton, Arne B. R. Witt, Winnie Nunda, David M. Richardson (2017) Chromolaena odorata (Siam weed) in eastern Africa: distribution and socio-ecological impacts. Biological Invasions. April 2017, Volume 19, Issue 4, pp 1285–1298

P. Abrahams, T. Beale, M. Cock, N. Corniani, R. Day, J. Godwin, S. Murphy, G. Richards & J. Vos. Fall armyworm inception report (April 2017)

Ross T Shackleton, Arne BR Witt, Winnifred Aool & Corin F Pratt (2017) Distribution of the invasive alien weed, Lantana camara, and its ecological and livelihood impacts in eastern Africa. African Journal of Range & Forage Science 

Shackleton, R.T., Witt, A., Piroris, F.M., van Wilgen, B.W. Distribution and socio-ecological impacts of the invasive alien cactus Opuntia stricta in eastern Africa. Biological Invasions · May 2017 DOI: 10.1007/s10530-017-1453-x

Cock, M.J.W.; Day, R.K.; Hinz, H.L.; Pollard, K.M.; Thomas, S.E.; Williams, F.E.; Witt, A.B.R.; Shaw, R.H. (2016) The impacts of some classical biological control successes. CAB Reviews 10(42), 58 pp. doi:10.1079/pavsnnr201510042

Book chapter: Arne Witt
Impact of Biological Invasions on Ecosystem Services: Use of Non-native Species for Poverty Alleviation in Developing Economies

Witt, A. (2017) Guide to the naturalized and invasive plants of Southeast Asia

Witt, A. (2017) Guide to the naturalized and invasive plants of Laikipia

Witt, A. (2017) Guide to the naturalized and invasive plants of Eastern Africa