The effort to stop ravenous swarms of desert locust attacking crops and pastures in East Africa has gotten another boost, thanks to a $19 million contribution from the United States. Early in the respond the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) made initial pledges of nearly $9M to support FAO's response, which it since increased by $10 million more.
The funding will support operations to control desert locusts in three of the worst impacted countries: Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia. Programs aimed at reducing the size of the infestations are critical to mitigating a potentially larger impact on people's ability to earn a living and provide food for their families in the future.
"I want to thank the United States for its generous contribution and for recognizing the urgent need to alleviate the alarming impact of the Desert Locust upsurge," said FAO Director-General Dongyu Qu. The outbreak in East Africa is the worst to strike Ethiopia and Somalia for 25 years -- for Kenya, in 70 years. Djibouti, Eritrea and Uganda have also been affected.
The situation is especially extremely alarming in East Africa, where 20 million people are already considered acutely food insecure. There, the swarms have laid eggs and new immature swarms are starting to hatch, right at the start of the region's main agricultural season. Pasture and croplands have already suffered damage, and there are potentially severe consequences for the region where millions rely on agriculture and livestock rearing for their survival.
FAO has surged locust experts and other personnel to support governments with surveillance and coordination of locust control activities and technical advice and is procuring supplies and equipment for aerial and ground operations by government control teams. In Kenya trainings of ground monitoring staff are underway and two new airplanes for government spraying activities have arrived. In Ethiopia, a new FAO-procured high-speed turboprop aircraft has boosted the country’s ability to conduct aerial spraying, making it possible to treat up to 1 500 hectares in one flight. In Somalia, bands of juvenile hopper locusts are being treated with a biopesticide made from a natural fungus, which penetrates the locust’s hard outer layer and starts feeding on the insect, weakening and then eventually killing it – without the use of chemicals.
FAO is also preparing action to protect rural livelihoods by providing affected growers with farming packages, veterinary care for vegetation-starved livestock, and cash for families who have lost their crops so that they can purchase food. The UN agency has appealed for $138 million in urgent funding to assist the countries that have been impacted. So far, around $105 million has been pledged.