Mogadishu(SONNA)- FAO calls for urgent funding to control further breeding
18 December 2019, Mogadishu– Somalia faces the worst Desert Locust outbreak in over 25 years, according to the emergency update issued today by the country office of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in Somalia and FAO’s Desert Locust Information Service in Rome.
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 threating staple food crops of agropastoral and pastoral families in rural areas.
“We are talking about a medium to long-term intervention. 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 Gu season in 2020 if we act now,” says Etienne Peterschmitt, FAO Representative in Somalia.
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 USD 3 million for this initial response,” says Peterschmitt.
Thanks to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland’s DFID funding, 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. However, security conditions in most parts of Somalia do not allow it,” says the FAO Representative in Somalia.
Unanticipated scale, transboundary consequences and challenges to fight the outbreak
The situation is far worse than anticipated and it has been exacerbated by exceptionally high rainfall and cyclone Pawan. If left unattended, Desert Locust will likely 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,” says Alphonse Owuor, Crop Protection Officer of FAO in Somalia.
Limited resources and capacity compared to the immense scale of the outbreak, coupled with continued insecurity in central and southern Somalia will pose a serious challenge to combat this unprecedented massive outbreak, which is expected to become a long fight that will require concerted efforts at regional level.
Background on Desert Locust
Desert Locust is a transboundary pest with the ability to spread over large areas causing considerable damage to pasture and crops. Outbreaks occur periodically but are complex to predict. When not managed at the place of origin or breeding ground, they can lead to loss of up to 100 percent of food and fodder crops.
A typical Desert Locust swarm can contain up to 150 million locusts per square kilometer. Swarms migrate with the wind and can cover 100-150 km a day. An average swarm will destroy enough crops that could feed 2 500 people for one year.