Desert Locust Outbreak ‘Worsens in Ethiopia’

ADDIS ABEBA – The Desert Locust (Schistocerca gregaria) infestation in Ethiopia has deteriorated, despite ongoing ground and aerial control operations, said the UN Agricultural agency on Thursday.

On Thursday, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), together with the government, has called for immediate action to control the infestation.

Hoppers have fledged, and an increasing number of small immature and mature swarms have continued to devour crop and pasture fields in Tigray, Amhara, Oromia, and Somali regional states.

In Amhara, some farms have registered nearly 100 percent loss of teff, a staple crop in Ethiopia.

Moreover, eggs are hatching profusely and forming hopper bands in the Somali region, due to the heavy rainfall, according to FAO.

The hopper bands recorded to date have covered more than 351 km2 and are consuming at least 1 755 000 MT of green vegetation per day.

“We need to act fast and mobilize the required resources urgently to scale up control and preventive measures,” said Fatouma Seid, FAO Representative in Ethiopia.

“So far, hopper bands have been controlled in only 21 000 hectares, out of the 48 000 hectares surveyed between August and October 2019 in 56 breeding Woredas (districts),” she said.

But control measures have become difficult in areas affected by ongoing insecurity, particularly in Dire Dawa city, according to FAO.

If not controlled, it said the Desert Locusts could continue moving within Ethiopia and invade northeast Kenya, the western lowlands and highlands of Eritrea, the Red Sea coastal plains in Eritrea, and adjacent southern coastal areas in Sudan.

FAO and the Government of Ethiopia plan to scale up control measures for fledgling hoppers, immature adults and newly arrived egg-laying swarms, particularly in the Somali region and other winter breeding areas, in the next two months.