Somalia

Cyclone Gati could worsen current desert locust infestations in Somaliland

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Following the Horn of Africa’s strongest storm ever, resource partners visit ongoing desert locust survey and control operations in affected areas

Representatives from the European Union, Germany and Switzerland visited various desert locust affected areas during a three-day mission. The main aim of the visit was to understand progress made so far in the fight against desert locusts, engage with Government counterparts and help raise awareness on upcoming needs to continue the ongoing response as well as provide additional livelihood support.

For more than a year now, the desert locust upsurge has been the worst the country has faced in decades. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) is working around the clock, hand-in-hand with Government authorities and partners to respond to the ongoing crisis.

Impact of Cyclone Gati

On 22 November 2020, Cyclone Gati, initially formed in the Indian Ocean, made landfall near Xaafuun and the northern tip of northeast Puntland. “This is the strongest storm ever recorded in Somalia; within a timeframe of only two days, two years’ worth of rain fell in the area,” says Dr. Ahmed Ali Maah, Director-General of the Ministry of Agricultural Development.

“Rains and winds are two of the most favorable conditions for desert locusts to multiply rapidly and spread to areas where they had been under control,” says Etienne Peterschmitt, FAO Representative in Somalia. “With these fresh rains, supported by prevailing winds, immature swarms that were present in the difficult to access highlands of Sanaag have matured and moved to Sool and Togdheer, seeking moist soils to lay their eggs,” he adds.

New threat to rural food security and livelihoods

With this new invasion of desert locusts, large areas of cropland and pasture are at risk of being damaged, with potentially severe consequences for agricultural, agropastoral and pastoral livelihoods in a context where food security is already fragile. Widespread breeding is currently underway in eastern Ethiopia and central and southern Somalia, coupled with a potential expansion to northern Somalia.

“By the second week of December, we expect numerous immature swarms to start forming,” says Alphonse Owuor, FAO Somalia Crop Protection Officer. “Many of these swarms will migrate further south to southern Ethiopia and southern Somalia, most likely reaching northern Kenya by mid-December. The potential scale of this migration could be substantial.”

On the desert locust livelihood response, agricultural and agropastoral households have received farming inputs for both the Gu, 24 300 households, and the Deyr season, 16 000 households, with a total of 7 468 farming households receiving cash. To support the pastoral communities affected by desert locusts, the delivery of 3 600 tonnes of livestock feed to 30 000 households is ongoing, with 2 450 households registered to receive cash+ livestock inputs.

Continued support from resource partners is critical

Thanks to the generous contributions of several resource partners, FAO has been able to support 17 ground survey and control teams, procure equipment including vehicles and sprayers, purchase environmentally friendly pesticides and facilitate the operations of aerial service providers for aerial survey and control.

“Since control operations began, we have been able to spray more than 110 000 ha with biopesticides as well as insect growth regulators,” says Alphonse Owuor, FAO Somalia Crop Protection Officer. “Because of these spraying activities, we were able to save/preserve 193 000 tonnes of cereals and productive assets for almost 90 000 pastoral households.”

“The upsurge is threatening people's livelihoods and food security in an area that is already seriously food insecure," says Johan Heffinck, Head of ECHO Somalia Office. "Having witnessed on the ground how the various control teams fight this ongoing desert locust pest, this is really a race against time. There is no time to waste."

The international community has committed USD 50.4 million so far to support the FAO and Government-led Desert Locust 2020 Somalia Action Plan, against a total requirement of USD 57 million. The funds received will allow FAO and partners to sustain operations until early 2021. Nevertheless, additional funds for aerial contracts, sprayers, vehicles and operational costs are urgently required to keep the operations going until at least June 2021.

Contributors to the desert locust regional appeal, in addition to Somalia, are the Abu Dhabi Agriculture and Food Safety Authority, the African Union, the Africa Solidarity Trust Fund, Belgium, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Canada, the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), China, Denmark, the European Union, France, Germany, Italy, the Louis Dreyfus Foundation, the Mastercard Foundation, the Netherlands, Norway, South Korea, the Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, the Special Fund for Emergency and Rehabilitation (SFERA), the Sudan Humanitarian Fund, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the United States, and the World Bank Group.