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)

Locust Outbreaks Threaten Food Security in Southern Africa: FAO

ADDIS ABABA – Outbreaks of African Migratory Locust (AML) are threatening the food security and livelihoods of millions of people in southern Africa, warned UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) on Friday.

The agency says at least 7 million people in Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe who are still recovering from the impact of the 2019 drought, and grappling with the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, could experience further food and nutrition insecurity.

“Even with the control measures already taken, the locusts are still a threat. Some of the worst-affected areas are very difficult to reach,” said Patrice Talla, FAO Sub-regional Coordinator for Southern Africa.

“We need to support the four governments, SADC and partner organizations like IRLCO-CSA to control this pest and protect people’s livelihoods,” Talla added.

Threatening food security

The AML outbreaks in southern Africa are separate from the Desert Locust emergency in eastern Africa.

Locusts are among the most destructive pests in the world. One swarm can contain tens of millions of adults – there are currently multiple swarms in the southern region.

A single swarm can eat as much in one day as 2,500 people, demolishing crops and livestock pasture in a matter of hours.

In Botswana, some smallholder farmers lost their entire crop at the start of the African Migratory Locust outbreak, according to FAO.

As the next planting season approaches, the pest threatens the country’s breadbasket region of Pandamatenga, where most of the country’s sorghum staple is grown, unless control efforts are urgently stepped up, it says.

In Namibia, the UN agency says initial outbreaks began in the Zambezi plains and hopper bands and swarms have now spread to key farming regions.

Similarly, in Zambia, the locust has spread rapidly and is affecting both crop and grazing lands, it added.

In Zimbabwe, swarms and hoppers initially infested two sites in the Chiredzi District and have now moved into Manicaland Province, according to FAO.

Featured Image: Locust invention late last year in east Africa. The latest AML outbreaks in southern Africa are separate from the Desert Locust emergency in eastern Africa. [Photo File]