Border-spanning campaign needed to combat locust upsurge in East Africa: FAO

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locusts WFP
PHOTO/COURTESY: theyeshivaworld.com

The Desert Locusts that have been appearing in Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia in recent weeks could swell exponentially and spill over into more countries in East Africa if efforts to deal with the voracious pest are not massively scaled up across the region, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has warned.

Recent weather in East Africa has created conditions that favour rapid locust reproduction. If left unchecked, the crop-devouring insects could grow 500 times by June. Such swarms – potentially containing hundreds of millions of individual Desert Locusts — can move 150 kilometres a day, devastating rural livelihoods in their relentless drive to eat and reproduce. A Desert Locust devours its own weight in food per day – about two grams.

“This has become a situation of international dimensions that threatens the food security of the entire subregion. FAO is activating fast-track mechanisms that will allow us to move swiftly to support governments in mounting a collective campaign to deal with this crisis,” said FAO Director-General QU Dongyu.

“Authorities in the region have already jump-started control activities, but in view of the scale and urgency of the threat, additional financial backing from the international donor community is needed so they can access the tools and resources required to get the job done,” Mr. Dongyu added.

FAO is providing forecasts, early warning and alerts on the timing, scale and location of invasions and breeding. Given the scale of the current swarms, aerial control is the only effective means to reduce the locust numbers.

Aerial operations need to be upscaled substantially and very quickly in Ethiopia and Kenya. In addition, “Alongside pest control activities our response must include efforts to restore people’s livelihoods,” said FAO’s Director-General. “Communities in Eastern Africa have already been impacted by extended droughts, which have eroded their capacities to grow food and make a living. We need to help them get back on their feet, once the locusts are gone,” Mr. Dongyu insisted.

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