Desert Locusts infested more than 235,000 hectares of land in Ethiopia. The locust spreads across the Afar, Amhara, Oromia, Somali, Tigray, and Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples’ (SNNP) regional states, as well as in Dire Dawa city.
While the locusts have spread to around 125 Woredas (districts) – up from 56 in October 2019, heavy rainfall creates favorable breeding conditions in some areas, including Somali region.
“The invasion could lead to a considerable drop in agricultural production, livestock feed and forest cover, compromising livelihoods and food security in Ethiopia and neighboring countries,” warned Fatouma Seid, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) Representative in Ethiopia.
Recent weather in East Africa has created favorable conditions for rapid locust reproduction. Left unchecked, the numbers of crop-devouring insects there could grow 500 times by June, FAO said in its report released on January 20, 2020. A Desert Locust devours its own weight in food per day – about two grams. An average swarm can destroy as much food crops in a day as is sufficient to feed 2,500 people.”
Such swarms – potentially containing hundreds of millions of individual Desert Locusts – can move 150 kilometres a day, devastating rural livelihoods in their relentless drive to eat and reproduce, FAO added.
Swarms continue to pour into Kenya from Ethiopia and Somalia. In Ethiopia, the insects are moving steadily south towards the Rift Valley, the country’s breadbasket.
Although aerial and ground control operations have been ongoing since July 2019, a large area of Desert Locust breeding ground in Ethiopia’s Somali region remained uncontrolled resulting in cyclic multiplication and formation of new swarms. This situation is exacerbated by heavy rainfall and green vegetation that will allow breeding conditions to remain favorable and may last until June 2020.
Last week, an Ethiopian Airlines plane was forced to divert after millions of locusts slammed into the engines, windshield and nose.