A boy observes how hopper bands of desert locust infest a house in a residential area in Lodwar, Turkana County, Kenya in June 2020.
Photo: ©FAO/Luis Tato

New generation of Desert Locusts threatens food security

The Desert Locust upsurge continues to threaten food security in the Horn of Africa and Yemen despite intense efforts to control the pest. Further investment is needed to protect rural livelihoods, FAO says.

A new generation of Desert Locust swarms is threatening agricultural and pastoral livelihoods and the food security of millions of people in the Horn of Africa and Yemen, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) said in mid-December 2020. 

The new Desert Locust swarms occur despite intense efforts to control the pest throughout 2020. More than 1.3 million hectares of locust infestations have been treated in ten countries since January. Control operations have prevented the loss of an estimated 2.7 million tonnes of cereal, worth nearly USD 800 million, according to FAO. That is enough to feed 18 million people a year.

However, favourable weather conditions and widespread seasonal rains have caused extensive breeding in eastern Ethiopia and Somalia. This was worsened by Cyclone Gati which brought flooding to northern Somalia last month, allowing locust infestations to increase further in the coming months. New locust swarms are already forming and threatening to re-invade northern Kenya and breeding is also underway on both sides of the Red Sea, posing a new threat to Eritrea, Saudi Arabia, the Sudan and Yemen.

Further investment is needed to fight Desert Locusts


Donors and partners have so far provided nearly USD 200 million to finance control efforts, allowing FAO and governments to rapidly scale up locust response capacity in a region that has not faced an upsurge of the pest on this scale in generations. Over 1,500 ground survey and control personnel have been trained and 110 vehicle-mounted ground sprayers and 20 aircraft are now in action.

FAO is now seeking a further USD 40 million to increase surveillance and control activities in the most affected countries - Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, the Sudan and Yemen - in 2021. More than 35 million people are already acutely food insecure in these five countries, and FAO estimates this number could increase by another 3.5 million if nothing is done to control the latest outbreak.

Rural livelihoods must be protected


FAO is not only working with governments and partners on control operations. The Organization is taking action to safeguard and protect rural livelihoods by providing affected growers with farming packages, veterinary care and feed for vegetation-starved livestock, and cash for families who have lost their crops so that they can cope until their next harvest.

Over 200 000 households have already received livelihood assistance and that number is expected to increase. FAO will assist an additional 98 000 households in early 2021 and is appealing for continuous support, mainly through Humanitarian Response Plans.

Without additional funding, control efforts could slow down or halt from the end of January 2021, potentially allowing the numbers of the crop-devouring pest to surge in some places. Farmers, whose livelihoods have been impacted, require further support and national capacities in monitoring and responding to Desert Locust still need to be strengthened.

(FAO/ile)

Read more at FAO website

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