East African nations likely to contain locust swarms - FAO

25Feb 2021
The Guardian Reporter
Dar es Salaam
The Guardian
East African nations likely to contain locust swarms - FAO

EAST African nations are likely to contain new locust swarms emerging in the region because of continuing pest-control operations and the prospect of poor spring rains, the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) has said.

The potential of a new generation of breeding comes after the region faced its worst locust invasion in decades last year, threatening the food security of millions of people. At the height of the infestation, 39 of Kenya’s 47 counties reported invasions of the insects that also spread to Ethiopia, Somalia, Uganda and Yemen.

The present situation in East Africa differs significantly from a year ago, the FAO said.

“The current swarms are smaller in size and less numerous,” it said. “Very little rain has fallen since the end of the short rains last year. Intensive aerial control operations, supported by ground teams, are well established and making good progress in reducing locust infestations.”

The Global Locust Initiative at Arizona State University expects locust outbreaks to become more frequent and severe because of climate change.

Recently, FAO reported immature swarms in Kenya’s northern and central counties, and in Kilifi County in upper Coast region. There are a few small immature swarms formed from previous breeding in the Coast region near Lamu and probably in adjacent areas of southern Somalia, the UN agency stated.

Swarms are highly mobile and the same swarm can be sighted several times, thus some locust concentrations were spotted in parts of the Rift Valley region, Kenya’s bread basket.

The swarms of locusts now threaten the livelihoods of millions of people in Kenya as the conflicts in Yemen, Somalia and northern Ethiopia make it difficult for FAO to control the breeding and movement of the pests at the source. FAO attributes the upsurge of locusts to favourable breeding grounds in these countries.

“We are having a second wave because of the favourable breeding weather conditions in Ethiopia and Somalia,” said Hamisi Williams, assistant FAO representative in Kenya.

“Yemen seems to be a gateway to the Horn of Africa because when the southerly winds begin to blow, locusts cross over the Red Sea to the Horn of Africa,” he said.

“Control measures including aerial spraying and mapping out breeding areas have been hampered by the fighting in Yemen, which is the one of the largest breeding grounds of desert locusts,” he pointed out.

Swarms can fly up to 150 kilometres a day with the wind, and a single square kilometre swarm can eat as much food in a day as 35,000 people, experts assert

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