Ethiopia racing against time to control locust invasion

A local tour guide holds a handfull of dead desert locusts after an invasion in Shaba National Reserve in Isiolo, northern Kenya, 16 January 2020 (issued 18 January 2020). Large swarms of desert locusts have been invading northern Kenya for weeks, after having infested some 70,000 hectares of land in Somalia which the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has termed the 'worst situation in 25 years' in the Horn of Africa. FAO cautioned on 13 January 2020 that it poses an 'unprecedented threat' to food security and livelihoods in the region. The government is spraying pesticide in the affected areas to battle the insects. EPA/Daniel Irungu

The United Nations has warned that the Ethiopian government is racing against time to control the ongoing desert locust invasion as the February-May harvest season commenced.

The latest desert locust warning was made on Wednesday by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), which is presently supporting the Ethiopian Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) in scaling up aerial and ground operations across crop-producing areas, mainly the Oromia and Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples’ (SNNP) regions.

“We are at a critical stage at which we need to save the next and subsequent harvests and safeguard the livelihood of the population,” said Fatouma Seid, FAO Representative in Ethiopia.

“As locusts are highly mobile, we need to quickly boost local capacities in areas where they go. Currently, we are mobilizing and training communities in SNNPR and Oromia regions and ensuring that the required resources are available to respond to the invasion,” FAO statement issued Wednesday quoted Seid as saying.

So far, FAO has received 6.5 million U.S. dollars for control operations from United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), the Office of United States Foreign Disaster Assistance, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia through the Commission for Controlling the Desert Locust in the Central Region, as well as the government of Belgium.

It also disclosed that negotiations are ongoing with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, and the government of Germany for an additional 10 million U.S. dollars for control operations and livelihoods support.

The FAO had recently made an appeal for 138 million U.S. dollars, from the initial 76 million U.S. dollars a month ago, to assist eight eastern African countries, of which 50.5 million U.S. dollars is for Ethiopia.

Appreciating the funds received so far and the ongoing negotiations with donors, FAO Representative in Ethiopia also appealed to partners to close the funding gap.

“If we don’t act swiftly, the resource needs will continue to grow, and it will be more complicated and expensive to contain the situation,” Seid stressed.

A cross-border desert locust swarm movement has continued across the Ethiopia-Kenya border amid continuing breeding in southern part of Ethiopia.

The ongoing desert locust invasion has also worried Ethiopian farmers across the affected areas.

Awuno Menka, 60, a farmer in Dereba village in South Omo, Gamugofa Zone in the SNNP region, has experienced the disastrous effects of the locusts and is worried about the continued invasion.

“Two massive swarms landed in our area and destroyed my entire maize crop. Although they were later controlled, more swarms are coming from Kenya. I fear for the next cropping season,” the statement quoted Awuno as saying.

Another Ethiopian farmer, Argueta Belachew, 45, also stressed that “in the last three days alone, numerous hoppers have been hatched and are consuming green vegetation. We appeal for help in controlling them.” Enditem

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