Gains in locust fight, but food insecurity remains – FAO

Battle on desert locusts is long and not yet over despite gains, says FAO boss

In Summary

• The long rains may favour reproduction; a second wave of locusts is expected during upcoming harvest, according to a UN report.

• Current locust upsurge is particularly alarming in the broader Eastern Africa region, and over 25 million people will face acute food insecurity.

Swarm of locusts.
Swarm of locusts.

The United Nations has reported gains in the fight against desert locusts in East Africa and Yemen but says the threat of a food security crisis remains.

A progress report released on Monday by the Food and Agriculture Organisation shows that while the long heavy rains may favour reproduction, a second wave of locusts is expected during the upcoming harvest.

FAO director general Qu Dongyu said in a statement that significant gains had been made in the fight against the desert locust upsurge.


He stressed, however, that more needed to be done to prevent a food security crisis, as the ongoing rainy season not only provides livelihoods for farmers and pastoralists but also favourable conditions for locusts to breed.

He said the UN agency working together with governments continued with surveillance and control operations despite constraints resulting from Covid-19 and other challenges.

"Our gains have been significant, but the battle is long and is not yet over. More people are at risk of losing their livelihoods and worsening food security in the coming months," Qu said.

The Global Report on Food Crises indicates that the current upsurge is particularly alarming in the broader Eastern Africa region, and that more than 25 million people will face acute food insecurity in the region in the second half of 2020.

The progress report further shows that while swathes of treated land are now relatively free from the voracious pest, the first wave of swarms has reproduced and a second wave of locusts will transition from juveniles to the young adult stage in June, taking flight at a critical time when many farmers in East Africa prepare to harvest their crops.

The desert locust is considered the most destructive migratory pest in the world and a single swarm covering one square kilometre can contain up to 80 million locusts.

FAO's desert locust appeal, launched in January, now covers 10 countries, namely, Kenya, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Uganda, Tanzania and Yemen.


"We can and must protect vulnerable people from the impact of multiple crises: conflicts, climate extremes, desert locusts and Covid-19, which threaten to cause a further dramatic deterioration in their food security. To do this, we need to intensify our efforts further and focus not just on controls but on supporting the livelihoods of farmers and pastoralists so they can get through this,” Qu said.

Edited by Henry Makori

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