Locust Swarms on the move, Continue to Pose Threat

ADDIS ABEBA – Desert locust swarms that formed from recent breeding during the summer are moving into new areas in Ethiopia with the possibility of further migration, says United Nations.

In July, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization warned that Desert Locust summer breeding, amplified by heavy rains, could pose a serious threat to agricultural production.

The swarms this month produced hopper bands that have covered more than 174 square kilometers and are consuming approximately 8 700 metric tons of green vegetation every day, officials said.

They are now moving into new areas “with the possibility of further migration,” FAO says on Monday.

Control operations are in progress against groups of hoppers and adults in Somali, Afar, Tigray regions and along the railway area near Dire Dawa in the east.

The organization, however, says “hoppers have fledged and the new adults are forming an increasing number of small immature and mature swarms”.

Some of which have already moved to the Ogaden area in eastern Ethiopia, perhaps supplemented by other undetected swarms from northern Somalia, it says.

The agency expects the movement to continue during the remainder of October and into November on two fronts.

These are towards the southeast and towards the north from Afar to Tigray and the western lowlands and highlands of Eritrea, according to FAO.

The Desert Locust infestation happened this time when Ethiopia is dealing with the impacts of the previous and ongoing drought.

Currently, other insect pests such as the fall armyworm and diseases such as wheat rusts are also serious impediments to agricultural production and food and nutrition security.

The latest reports indicate that about 7.8 million people in the country require food assistance.

This number is likely to increase if the fledgling Desert Locust swarms continue infesting more areas and causing damage to crops and natural vegetation.

“Urgent control operations are required to manage the situation and protect the livelihood of the population in eastern Ethiopia and possibly the neighboring countries,” said Fatouma Seid, FAO Representative in Ethiopia, earlier this month.

Locusts, which can travel 60-70 km in an hour and up to 300km in a day, consume most vegetation in their path.