Locust Invasion In East Africa

According to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the Horn of Africa is undergoing its worst locust invasion in 25 years. FAO further adds that this is an unprecedented threat to food security in the region, where more than 19 million people experience food insecurity. A desert locust is the most destructive of all food-eating locust species because of its speed and ability to multiply rapidly. They do not attack people or animals and there is no evidence of any diseases they carry that can harm humans.

Kenya has spent $5 million to manage its worst locust invasion in 70 years. The country has experienced locust invasions at a much smaller scale, as in 2007. “This current invasion of desert locusts is significantly larger in magnitude and scale than previously experienced in Kenya and across East Africa,” said Dr. Stephen Njoka, the Director-General of Desert Locust Control Organization.

According to Keith Cressman, FAO’s senior forecasting officer, the cyclone that swept through Northeastern Somalia and Eastern Ethiopia in December brought heavy rains to the area. This created a favourable breeding environment for the locusts for the next six months. These large swarm areas are currently undetected or untreated, leaving the area vulnerable to new generations of locusts.¬† Cressman further stated that if the locusts are not treated by control measures, they can grow 400 times larger by June 2020.

If the situation is not contained quickly, it could become a plague,” reads FAO’s statement. The locusts destroy food and pasture in the region, and it has been difficult to determine the extent of the damage as new swarms spread across borders every day. Though pesticides are used to control the swarm, it is difficult to assess their effectiveness due to rapid and constant movement. In responding to the highest disaster, FAO instituted a six-month emergency action plan and will spend $70 million to contain the epidemic.

According to FAO, a desert locust swarm can stay in the air for very long periods, and travel up 130 kilometers or more a day. To demonstrate how disastrous a desert locust is, FAO states that a swarm the size of Paris can devour as much food as half the population of France!!! With this revelation by FAO, we hope they find a speedy and effective solution to this epidemic.

Rachel Kaburi