East Africa Locust Infestation
Kenya - The desert locusts have swarmed in Kenya from Somalia and Ethiopia, destroying farmlands. Ravenous swarms threaten entire East Africa subregion. FAO scales up its emergency response with a massive, border-spanning campaign needed to combat locust upsurge in East Africa. FAO/Sven Torfinn.
Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia are being invaded by enormous swarms of desert locusts in the worst such upsurge in 70 years in Kenya, and in 25 years in Ethiopia and Somalia. The locusts are an unprecedented threat to food security and livelihoods in an already food-insecure region. The surges have also reached Djibouti and Eritrea, and the risk of spread to Uganda and South Sudan – which have not seen swarms for nearly 60 years – is high.
Compounding the situation is the upcoming rainy/planting season, starting in March, which is a key season for pastoralists and farmers in East Africa and the Horn of Africa. Rain is an enabler of desert locust reproduction and, given the right conditions, a locust population can increase 20-fold every three months.
Desert locusts are considered the most destructive migratory pests in the world. Reports of crop damage are coming in from Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia, but firm numbers on damages and losses have not yet been reliably ascertained. Rapid assessments are under way to gain a clearer picture of damages to crops and forage vegetation crucial to pastoralists.
In one day, a 1 km2 swarm can consume the equivalent of food for 35,000 people and can travel 150 km. There can be from 40 million to 80 million locust adults in each 1 km2 swarm.
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has launched an emergency appeal for US$76 million to help governments rapidly scale up aerial spraying and other control measures and to protect peoples’ livelihoods in affected areas. This appeal is an increase from the initial request of $70 million for immediate needs (curbing the spread, safeguarding livelihoods, supporting early livelihoods recovery and coordination), and reflects expanding needs in Djibouti and Eritrea.
As needs grow across the affected countries, the appeal will likely need to be upwardly revised again.
FAO has thus far raised $18 million out of the $76 million needed in East Africa.
The UN Central Emergency Response Fund has released US$10 million to support the FAO response. “We must act now,” said Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock. “If left unchecked, this outbreak has the potential to spill over into more countries in East Africa with horrendous consequences. A swift and determined response to contain it is essential.”
Resources are required immediately.
We cannot eradicate the locusts, but we can contain them and prevent a food crisis from breaking out.
FAO has long-term expertise in monitoring and managing locust populations and is providing 24/7 updates and forecasts of the crisis. It mobilizes financial resources and – through emergency projects – procures equipment and supplies (including planes and pesticides) for use by governments. FAO also hires and deploys international experts to support control campaigns.
Press release: CERF releases $10 million for locust response
Exposure: The locust crisis in numbers