ROME, 29 January 2021 – The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has warned that lack of funding could grind to a halt its use of aircraft to fight desert locusts in East Africa.
The FAO seeks about $38 million in funding in order to keep in the air the fleet of aircraft it has engaged to fight fast-reproducing swarms of the crop-devouring pests across the sub-region.
Latest reports say newly-hatched breeds of the pests have been identified in eleven countries across the Greater Horn of Africa.
Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia are the worst-hit countries as of January 2021, according to the FAO.
Parts of Tanzania have also come under severe attack.
The aerial and ground spraying, which was launched and has been ongoing ever since the first invasion was reported in January 2020, is needed to avoid catastrophic crop and dairy losses.
“With the recent invasion of a new generation of desert locusts, large areas of cropland and pasture are at risk of being damaged,” says Ezana Kassa, the FAO Emergency Coordinator in Somalia.
Without urgent action, East African farmers could be hit by losses estimated $1.2 billion, according to the FAO.
“The last time Africa saw an upsurge of locusts approaching this scale, in the Sahel, it took two years and more than $500 million to bring under control,” Kassa added.
The destruction of farmlands in the sub-region by the pests would have grave consequences on the livelihoods of millions of people who have already been very badly impacted by the storms, floods and the new coronavirus.
FAO officials say the locusts has had little trouble breeding in large numbers because Cyclone Gati, for example, dumped two years worth of rainfall in one storm in the three worst-hit countries of the Horn of Africa.
These conditions are ideal for the pests to hatch, grow, devour crops, multiply, and spread even beyond the Horn of Africa.
This is the third invasion of desert locusts in the sub-region in just one year, according to the FAO.