Second wave of locusts attack

Wednesday, December 16th, 2020 00:00 |
Most of the governments in the region say they have prepared themselves for the second wave of locust swarms. PD/FILE

London, Wednesday

New swarms of desert locusts are threatening the livelihoods of millions of people in the Horn of Africa and Yemen despite a year of control efforts, the United Nations has warned.

The UN says there have been good breeding conditions in eastern Ethiopia and Somalia, with Kenya also at risk.

Breeding underway on both sides of the Red Sea poses a new threat to Eritrea, Saudi Arabia and Yemen.

This year had already seen the worst East Africa invasion in 70 years.

“For Kenya, the threat is imminent, it could happen any time now,” Keith Cressman, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation’s senior locust forecasting officer told the BBC.

“It could be as bad as what we’ve seen in the past year because the area of breeding ground in these countries is as big as 350,000 sq km (135,000 sq miles).”

Crop destruction

Between January and August this year East Africa saw billions of the insects destroying crops across the region.

“We lost so much of our pastures and vegetation because of the locusts and as a result we are still losing a good number of our livestock,” said Gonjoba Guyo, a pastoralist in North Horr sub-country in northern Kenya.

“I have lost 14 goats, four cows and two camels because of the locust outbreak and now there is lots of fear that we may face similar or worse consequences.”

FAO officials said countries in the region were now much better prepared than for the last invasion.

They say surveillance is high, and preparedness - such as spraying pesticides on the ground or from aeroplanes - is much better, with over one million acres of land treated for infestations in 10 countries.

But there are fears that communities might be overwhelmed if the swarms are really big. So, how could the locusts breed again on such a threatening scale?

Favourable weather

Experts say central Somalia and eastern Ethiopia received higher than average rainfall in the rainy season from September and November.

That meant the ground saw significant generation and expansion of vegetation.

“That became a really good breeding ground for the locusts,” said Cressman. “And these areas are really huge breeding areas.”  - BBC

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