Panafrican News Agency

Somalia desert locust outbreak threatens food security in Horn of Africa

Nairobi, Kenya (PANA) – Somalia faces the worst Desert Locust outbreak in a quarter of a century with the risk of spreading to Djibouti, Ethiopia and Kenya, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said on Tuesday.

According to the emergency update issued by the FAO Country office in Somalia and FAO’s Desert Locust Information Service in Rome, the desert Locust breeding is ongoing in Somaliland, Puntland and Galmudug (Mudug).

An estimated 70,000 hectares of land have been infested by hoppers and breeding adults, which have already damaged crop and pastures in Somalia and Ethiopia.

"They are affecting pasture and threatening staple food crops of agropastoral and pastoral families in rural areas," FAO said.

FAO Representative in Somalia Etienne Peterschmitt said the organisation was taking medium to long-term intervention against the locust outbreak.

"The impact of our actions in the short term is going to be very limited, but we can make a difference to support livelihoods and avoid further disastrous consequences for the next season in 2020 if we act now,” Peterschmitt said.

Over the next six months, more than 100,000 hectares of land will require direct control intervention in Somalia.

According to the UN Agency, the fight against Desert Locust calls for immediate institutional, infrastructural and technical investments for larger scale actions in 2020 and beyond.

FAO requires an additional US$3 million for the initial response, Peterschmitt said.

FAO is already working very closely with Ministries of Agriculture and partner organizations on surveillance and control efforts in Somaliland and Puntland to prevent the spread of desert locust to southern and central Somalia.

FAO has also facilitated surveys covering over 20,000 hectares in Puntland and Somaliland.

Twenty Ministry of Agricultural Development staff have been trained on the application of biopesticide in Somaliland, where spray operations have just started to control breeding.

Given the scale of the disaster, aerial spray using airplanes would have been the ideal control measure, the FAO official said.

However, security conditions in most parts of Somalia do not allow it.

The outbreak is expected to create an unanticipated scale and transboundary consequences, including destruction of pasture, affecting the flow of livestock.

The situation is far worse than anticipated and it has been exacerbated by exceptionally high rainfall and cyclone Pawan.

The Desert Locust is expected to spread to the main crop growing areas in southern Somalia, northeastern Kenya, Eritrea and Djibouti.

So far, the locust infestations have been confined to rangeland and grasslands areas in Somaliland and Puntland.

However, once adults form immature swarms, there is a greater possibility that some swarms will migrate south towards the Ethiopian border area with southern Somalia (Jubaland, South West and Hirshabelle Federal Members States) while other swarms will remain in place, mature and lay eggs for another generation of breeding, according to FAO.

“The immature swarms are the most destructive stage and can seriously threaten the 2019 Deyr [October-December] season food and fodder production,” said Alphonse Owuor, FAO Crop Protection Officer in Somalia.

-0- PANA AO/MA 18Dec2019