Desert Locust May Spread to More E. African Nations, UN Agency Says

ADDIS ABEBA – The UN Agriculture agency warns that unless early and sustained measures are taken to control the Desert Locust invasion in Ethiopia and Somalia, the pest will spread to other Eastern African nations, including Djibouti, Eritrea, Kenya, South Sudan and the Sudan.

Food and Agriculture Organization or FAO disclosed that the rapid incursion of the Desert Locust across many regions of Ethiopia has already resulted in significant losses on croplands and jeopardized the livelihoods of smallholder farmers that depend on crops and livestock.

David Phiri, FAO Sub-regional Coordinator for Eastern Africa and Representative to the African Union and UN Economic Commission for Africa, warned that the locust is making the bad food security situation worse in the sub-region.

Its infestation might lead to a considerable drop in agricultural production, and would further exacerbate the existing dire food insecurity and malnutrition in the sub-region.

“As the weather seems favorable for the locust breading, there is a high probability that the locust will continue to breed until March-April 2020, with a high probability of spreading to other Eastern African nations,” said Phiri.

“Unless we control the spread, it will greatly affect people and livestock in many parts of the sub-region, which is already home to 50 percent of Africa’s food-insecure people,” cautioned Phiri.

He finally appealed for development partners to support the ongoing efforts of national governments and relevant institutions, including the Desert Locust Control Organization for East Africa (DLCO-EA), to scale up their operations to prevent the potential disaster.

Officials say the Desert Locust situation in the Eastern Africa region remains a serious concern for FAO and national governments.

According to FAO, despite major control and prevention operations, substantial crop losses have already occurred in the Amhara and Tigray regions of Ethiopia.

The hopper bands — young locust populations moving together — have covered nearly 430 square kilometers and have consumed about 1.3 million metric tons of vegetation over a two-month period.

The formation of bands is ongoing in the rangelands of the Ethiopian Somali Region; and massive new swarms will arrive from Yemen and Somalia, according to the UN agency.