Swarms of desert locusts fly up into the air from crops in Katitika village, Kitui county, Kenya Friday, Jan. 24, 2020. Desert locusts have swarmed into Kenya by the hundreds of millions from Somalia and Ethiopia, countries that haven't seen such numbers in a quarter-century, destroying farmland and threatening an already vulnerable region. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)

Locusts Swarm Threatening Ethiopia’s Food Security

ADDIS ABABA – Desert locusts have affected at least 173 woredas or districts across seven regions of Ethiopia since the infestation began in late 2019, causing a significant threat to food security, claims a preliminary assessment report.

The Ethiopian government and its partners are about to finalize a nationwide assessment that gauges the impact of the locust infestations on livelihoods and food security of the nation.

The assessment targeted 1,600 households in 64 kebeles across 32 woredas in Afar, Amhara, Oromia, SNNP, Somali and Tigray regions, as well as Dire Dawa City Administration.

Its preliminary findings indicate decreased food availability at household level as a result of the infest, says the UN humanitarian agency UN OCHA in its bulletin on Wednesday.

The impact also results in a low market supply of food items and subsequent increase in market price compared to the same time last year.

“Livestock sales have increased to generate additional income to buy food and supplementary animal feed,” the report claims. “At the same time, livestock body conditions have deteriorated, and livestock price have declined, negatively affecting the terms of trade”.

According to the assessment, the price of cereal has increased by an estimated 50% as of February 2020 compared to the same time last year while the price of livestock such as camels and goats have dropped slightly by more than 30% during the same period.

“Affected households require food assistance for sustenance between March and July,” claims the UN agency.

The plague is now feared to aggravate the food insecurity in the country, where seven million people are in acute need of life-saving multi-sector assistance, even further.

The insects, which eat their own body weight in food every day, are still breeding in southern part of Ethiopia, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

Within a widespread area of Oromia and SNNPR regions, including the Rift Valley, the locusts “are forming in some places”, FAO announced on Tuesday.

“Immature swarms are present in the south where cross-border movements are likely from adjacent areas of Somalia and Kenya. Aerial and ground control operations continue,” it added.

As the plague continues almost all east African nations, aerial and ground spraying combined with constant tracking of the swarms are viewed as the most effective strategies.

But Desert Locust Control Organization for Eastern Africa head Stephen Njoka told BBC News this week that aircraft were in short supply.

Currently, Ethiopia was using five and Kenya six for spraying and four for surveying, he said.

More finance and resources are needed, according to experts, to tackle the situation now than what it was months ago.

In January, officials appealed for 6 million US dollar to tackle the crisis. That figure has now risen to 51.5 million US dollars due to an upsurge of infested areas and damages caused, according to UN OCHA.