A locust swarm of biblical proportions is expected to invade Kenya via Ethiopia, for the second time this year.
Meanwhile, an unprecedented locust attack is threatening food security in Pakistan and South Asia, with some farmers saying locusts are already gobbling up their crops and swarms gather to sweep across the region
Governments and the U.N. have warned that the locust will cause major food shortage in the region… Again!
Locusts, pandemics, floods: East Africa, Pakistan and South Asia can’t catch a break!
As deadly flooding leaves thousands homeless across those countries, a second wave of locust threatens the food supplyin the region.
Earlier this week, deadly flooding and landslides in the eastern part of the country killed at least 100 and left over 1,800 homeless. This comes just weeks after flooding in the western part of the country left scores more homeless, too.
Now, a locust swarm of biblical proportions is expected to invade Kenya via Ethiopia for the second time this year. Here a incredible video from Pakistan:
The first swarm was the largest swarm that east Africa had seen in over 30 years, and the worst Kenya had seen in 70 years.
The swarms can move up to 100 miles a day, depending on the wind, and can eat their weight daily. The first generation swarm peaked in the region two months ago, with locusts numbering in the hundreds of millions.
Second generation swarm
This second generation swarm is even bigger and more threatening.
This is known as the second generation of the pests, meaning the first swarm reproduced. This second generation is younger and more aggressive than the first.
According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), left unchecked, locusts swarms multiply by a factor of 20 per generation.
Practically, that means there are probably trillions of locusts in the current swarm. They also estimate that this swarm is 400 times stronger than the first.
Governments and the U.N. have warned that the locust will cause major food shortage in the region. In its latest locust watch update, the U.N. said the situation was “extremely alarming” as an increasing number of new swarms form in north and central Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia.
There are currently 18 swarms in Kenya. Regional governments have asked for financial aid to fight the swarms, but it is low priority due to the current health crisis and lockdown.
The swarms are near impossible to manage, especially without proper gear. As Ambroke Ngetich, FAO Project Officer in Kenya, told the BBC: “Every time you are trying to control in one region, there is another swarm that is happening in a different region and it is not possible to control them simultaneously.”
Thousands of gallons of pesticides missing
Tens of thousands of liters of pesticides haven’t been able to reach the region, as the pandemic closed international borders and disrupted the supply chain. Masses of adequate protective gear, to be used while spraying the pesticides, have also not made it to the region.
Even if the materials were able to be delivered, however, it could be too late. Current solutions have not and will not work, the FAO warns local countries, as the sizes of the swarms are too big for aerial spraying. Further, current spraying practices don’t kill everything, leaving bugs in the ground.
An absolutely unmitigated disaster
The locusts present “an extremely alarming and unprecedented threat” to food security and livelihoods, according to the U.N.
David Hughes from the U.N.’s FAO, told the BBC that the swarms “threaten the food of 23 million people. It is the number one food security issue in East Africa at the moment.”
And, he explains, “when you add on top of it, cyclones or whatever else we’ll have in the next 2-3 months… it’s an absolutely unmitigated disaster.”
The FAO warns that it will be too late to stop the locusts from spreading in less than six months, which would threaten millions with starvation.
Thus far, the winds have kept the swarm in northern Kenya and southern Ethiopia, which contains lots of open land unused by farmers. But with tens of millions in the region already dependent on food aid, this could turn into a humanitarian crisis quickly.
“The current situation in East Africa remains extremely alarming as more swarms form and mature in northern and central Kenya and southern Ethiopia. This represents an unprecedented threat to food security and livelihoods because it coincides with the early beginning of the long rains and the current growing season,” warns desert locust situation update report by FAO.
Entire East Africa region under threat
The swarm threatens the entire East Africa region, not just Kenya.
In February, eight east African countries experienced the worst outbreak in 70 years.
Yemen and east Africa are roughly 152 miles apart, separated just by the Gulf of Aden. Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda were worst hit by the swarms.
All of this happens as the Lake Victoria Basin countries of Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania have experienced abnormally heavy rainfall since October 2019, which has effectively caused flooding, which also threatens food supply.
The East African Community (EAC) secretariat will set aside emergency funds to turn tides against floods and locusts, a new report by ReliefWeb indicates.
Meanwhile in South Asia
In Iran, hopper bands persist on the southwest coast and near the Strait of Hormuz. Adult groups laid eggs in Sistan-Baluchistan where surveys should be intensified to detect hatching and band formation.
In Pakistan, hopper and adult groups persist in Baluchistan, adult groups have formed in the Indus Valley, and hopper groups and bands are present in Punjab. Hopper groups, bands, and adult groups are present on the Indo-Pakistan border in Punjab of both countries.
Migration from the spring breeding areas in Baluchistan has commenced, and several immature adult groups and swarms have appeared since 2 May in Rajasthan, India.
Control operations continue in all three countries. Increased monitoring and reporting are required in desert areas along both sides of the Indo-Pakistan border.