Second Wave Of Locusts Expected To Ravage East Africa In Swarms As Big As Moscow
Countries in East Africa are now bracing for a second wave of desert locusts, which is estimated to be 20 times the size of the swarms which ravaged the land just two months ago.
These locusts will pose a serious threat to food security and livelihoods within the region, with a swarm of just over a third of a square mile capable of devouring the same volume of food in just one day as 35,000 human beings.
The first wave of locusts was the worst reported plague in some areas for 70 years, with some swarms reported to be as big as the Russian city of Moscow. These ravenous locusts are capable of travelling approximate distances of 90 miles a day; demolishing vast acres of crops in their path.
An approximate 20 million people already suffer food insecurity in the six East African countries which have been worst affected by locusts: Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Uganda and the United Republic of Tanzania.
The UN has described this latest situation as being ‘extremely alarming’, with a growing number of new swarms having formed in north and central Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia. This could lead to further ‘suffering, displacement and potential tensions’.
According to a report from the UN, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is continuing to battle against the infestation.
Having now increased its desert locust funding appeal to $153.2 million, the FAO has estimated locust numbers could escalate by another 20 times during the rainy season to come unless further control activities are implemented.
As reported by France 24 in January, one swarm in Kenya was around 2,400 square kilometres (930 square miles), almost the size of Moscow. These new swarms are expected to be even worse.
The FAO is working to provide surveillance support, and is also supporting aerial and ground spraying across 10 impacted countries. Over 240,000 hectares have so been treated with chemical pesticides or biopesticides, with 740 people trained to carry out ground locust control operations.
Cyril Ferrand, FAO’s Resilience Team Leader for East Africa, said:
There is no significant slowdown because all the affected countries working with FAO consider desert locusts a national priority.
While lockdowns are becoming reality, people engaged in the fight against the (locust) upsurge are still allowed to conduct surveillance and air and ground control operations.
Unfortunately, the coronavirus outbreak has affected the supply of motorised sprayers and pesticides, with global air freight having been significantly reduced.
Our absolute priority is to prevent a breakdown in pesticide stocks in each country. That would be dramatic for rural populations whose livelihoods and food security depend on the success of our control campaign.
In response to this, the FAO is using remote data collection via a network of partners, civil society, and extension workers as well as grassroots organisations.
Those in affected countries are being encouraged to make use of a handheld device known as a eLocust3 – which can both record and transmit real-time data to national locust centres and the FAO’s Desert Locust Information Service.
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