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Desert locust invasion

Last updated: 19 August 2020

A second wave of desert locust is destroying crops, animal feed and threatening food supplies across the Horn of Africa.

The invasion, which is the worst to hit the region in decades, has impacted several communities working with Farm Africa in Ethiopia and Uganda.

Combined with the ongoing Covid 19 pandemic, the desert locust invasion is putting livelihoods at risk and is set to increase the number of people suffering from food insecurity in eastern Africa in 2020.

Desert locusts are a particularly destructive species, with the average swarm being able to destroy crops that would feed up to 2,500 people for a year. The FAO has reported starving animals in infected regions and large-scale crop damage. In northern Kenya staple crops such as sorghum have seen a 20% to 30% reduction in yields this year.

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Esther, a Community Animal Health Worker who supports participants in our Livestock for Livelihoods project in Karamoja, northeast Uganda, saw the devastation that locusts can cause when they passed through her village:

“The trees were completely bare, the locusts finished all the leaves. The trees remained bare and dry, just the trunks were left, the locusts finished everything. They are so destructive.”

Hot and wet conditions have provided the perfect breeding ground for the locusts, which combined with Covid 19 restrictions are making it challenging for authorities to prevent the 400 billion desert locusts from spreading further.

The Ethiopian government and development partners including Farm Africa have escalated efforts to manage the situation and minimise damage. Aerial and ground spraying operations are being used to tackle immature swarms in the Somali region and the northern Rift Valley of the SNNPR, and communities, with assistance from the government, have so far prevented excessive damage to crops in locations where Farm Africa works in Ethiopia, including Halaba in SNNPR and the Bale Eco-region.

But this is an ongoing battle, and it is proving extremely difficult to keep swarms from migrating from neighbouring countries. There are now concerns that more locusts are migrating northwards to Ethiopia and Sudan and that a few swarms may continue to cross the border into northeast Uganda.

Chris de Bode / Panos Pictures for Farm Africa

Farm Africa is advising communities that Integrated Pest Management is the best control mechanism for desert locusts and is highlighting the need for early planning and control before detection.

For Esther, the locusts continue to pose a threat to her village. “They could eat all our sorghum, everything that people have cultivated… They have moved on but they have left thousands of eggs here. Some time when it is rainy soon they will hatch. It is really challenging for people in agriculture.”

The desert locust invasion is putting the livelihoods and food security of farmers in eastern Africa at risk and is showing how important it is to build the resilience of vulnerable communities. Farm Africa helps those living in rural areas by giving them the tools, knowledge and resources to increase their yields, incomes and savings so they are able to adapt to and absorb shocks such as the locust invasion.

In order to support the communities we work with through this crisis, your donations are more valuable than ever.

Please donate today.

Control methods

Farm Africa’s one-page briefing sheet advises small-scale farmers on control methods for desert locusts.

Download the briefing here.



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