FAO Warns Locust Outbreak in Ethiopia, East Africa

ADDIS ABEBA – Desert Locust can pose a serious threat to agricultural production areas of Ethiopia and the rest of horn of Africa in the next three months, FAO warned today.

“Locust breeding that is being amplified by heavy rains can pose a serious threat to agricultural production areas” in the sub-region, FAO’s statement said.

It said the locusts will have “potentially adverse impacts” on the agricultural seasonal yields and local economies affecting food security and livelihoods of the populations.

Intensive ground and aerial control operations in Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Sudan have reduced locust populations.

But that could not entirely prevent swarms from forming and moving to the traditional summer breeding areas in Yemen, Sudan and the Horn of Africa, the UN food agency said.

“In the worst-case scenario, swarms could migrate from Yemen in the autumn to the Horn of Africa and reach Kenya by the end of the year, unless urgent preventive and control measures are established in the region.

Desert Locust swarms last invaded Kenya in 2007 and aerial control operations were required to bring the situation under control.

In northeast Somalia, FAO said mature swarms were seen at several locations during the past weeks, causing substantial crop damage.

“Similar breeding is expected to occur in eastern Ethiopia while groups of adult locusts may move from the northern region of Amhara to the summer breeding areas in western Eritrea and the interior of Sudan,” the statement indicated.

While Sudan is much better equipped and prepared than some other countries in the region, the current political situation in the country may reduce the effectiveness of operations this summer.

Capacities in Eritrea, Ethiopia and northern Somalia also remain relatively limited, according to FAO.

“Given the seriousness of the current locust situation, all countries must monitor the field conditions by mounting regular ground surveys and undertaking the necessary control measures whenever important locust infestations are detected,” the agency warned.