Locust Swarms Decline but East Africans Told to Stay Vigilant

ADDIS ABABA – Three East African nations including Ethiopia have been told to stay vigilant as desert locust swarms continue to decline in the sub-region.

In a situation update Tuesday, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said desert locust swarms have continued to decline in Kenya, Ethiopia, and Somalia as a result of ongoing control operations.

However, good rains have fallen over the past two months in parts of southern Ethiopia and northern Kenya that should allow current swarms to mature and lay eggs.

This is likely to give rise to hatching and the formation of hopper bands during May, FAO says.

The scale and extent of the upcoming breeding will be significantly smaller as compared to a year ago.

Controlling efforts supported by aircraft and other resources put in place should be able to manage the anticipated breeding, according to the UN agency.

“Even though the situation continues to improve, it is paramount that all countries sustain their current survey and control efforts in reducing existing swarms as well as detecting and controlling any breeding in the coming months,” FAO says, adding “Intense vigilance must be maintained until the autumn”.

Where they are located in Ethiopia

Currently, the majority of the locust infestations in Ethiopia are present in the east of the Rift Valley in the Bale Mountains and Harar Highlands where immature swarms persist.

Both these areas have received rainfall that has runoff towards the eastern lowlands where breeding is expected to occur.

In the past week, immature and mature swarms have appeared in some of these areas, primarily in the Somali region from south of Jigiga to Kebri Dehar, according to FAO.

Although the situation remains to calm further south, a few small swarms may be present in southern Oromia and SNNP regions, it added.

Region-wise, FAO says the further decline of the current upsurge in the Horn of Africa depends on rainfall and control operations during this spring and summer.

“If only limited breeding occurs in northern Kenya and southern Ethiopia from now until June, followed by poor rains in northeast Ethiopia during the summer, and assuming that survey and control operations can be maintained, then the situation is likely to return to normal by autumn,” FAO’s statement on Tuesday.

Featured Image: A Desert Locust eating foliage in Samburu County in northeastern Kenya. [Photo FAO]

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