By Kevin Rotich
Farmers in the four countries are staring at crop and dairy losses due to an upsurge in locust attacks as funding for aerial spraying and monitoring dries up in March.
The UN agency said additional financing for fuel, airtime and pilot hours is needed for the 28 anti-locust aircraft, which are currently in operation.
“Governments have built up capacity in record-time. Swarms have been massively reduced in number and in size. It would be tragic to throw these achievements away just as the nations of East Africa are starting to see light at the end of the tunnel,” said FAO Deputy Director-General Laurent Thomas.
The operation involves 28 airplanes and helicopters, 260 ground units as well as 3,000 spotters and control operators.
So far, over 6,000 hours of air sorties have been flown to spot and spray infestations of the pest.
This is in addition to new innovations such as the eLocust3 digital tools, satellite imagery, artificial intelligence, and trajectory models have been harnessed to report locusts in real-time and deliver maps of infestations, breeding areas, and migration routes.
“There is a real possibility they could bring this upsurge to an end this year, but they need to be able to continue doing what they are doing, without faltering,” Thomas said.
More than 1.5 million hectares of land have been treated in East Africa and Yemen since the start of the campaign in January 2020. In January, the government and FAO rolled out ground surveillance and aerial spraying in three counties of Wajir, Mandera and Marsabit amid extensive damage on farmlands.