Battle against locusts in Yemen and East Africa ‘not yet over’

The UN has warned a second wave of locusts in the millions could threaten food security

Sightline with Tim Marshall: Locusts

Sightline with Tim Marshall: Locusts
Powered by automated translation

The UN has warned the fight against huge locusts swarms in East Africa and Yemen is “not yet over”, as the pests look set for a resurgence in East Africa and Yemen by June.

Favourable weather conditions and a halt in spraying pesticides due to the war in Yemen created an infestation the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation termed the "worst situation in 25 years" in the Horn of Africa between October 2019 and March this year.

The UN FOA called for more funding to work to eradicate the swarms, up to millions of locusts large and capable of eating the food of 35,000 people in one day, before the next cropping season between March and July.

Why are locust swarms spreading so fast?

Why are locust swarms spreading so fast?

It said this effort has been largely successful, saving an estimated 720,000 tonnes of cereal across 10 countries, enough to feed five million people for a year. But FAO chief Qu Dongyu warned against complacency, saying action is still needed to avert a food security crisis.

"Our gains have been significant; but the battle is long and is not yet over", he said on Monday.

"More people are at risk of losing their livelihoods and worsening food security in the coming months.”

Breeding is in progress in Kenya, Ethiopia, Somalia, Oman and Yemen, among other countries, the body reports.

Without action and with favourable rainy weather conditions, the locust population could grow 400-fold by June 2020, FAO said in it’s May report. This could result in their spread to the Sahel region, Indo-Pakistan border and Sudan.

There is also a $34.1 million funding shortfall to protect the livelihoods of those whose grazing land and crops could be ravaged by the pests.

Food security has also been impacted by coronavirus, as measures designed to stop the spread of the disease like lockdowns, keep farmers from their crops and selling at markets.

Last week, farmers in northern Oman asked authorities for help in battling second generation groups of locusts, saying the focus on battling coronavirus had detracted attention away from the locust problem.

But Mr Qu thanked East African governments for their “massive efforts” to eradicate locusts during the crisis.

“Even today, when Covid-19 has created huge disruption and uncertainty, East African leaders have maintained the desert locust response as a national priority,” he said.