Locusts drive 1 million Ethiopians to hunger

Desert locusts

Desert locusts

from ADANE BIKILA in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
ADDIS ABABA, (CAJ News) ABOUT 1 million Ethiopians require emergency food assistance after an invasion by the desert locust devastated farmlands in the East African region.

According to assessments by the government and non-governmental organisations, the locusts have damaged about 200 000 hectares of cropland and caused a cereal loss of over 356 000 tonnes.

Up to 1,3 million hectares of pasture have been devoured.

Fatouma Seid, the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) representative in Ethiopia, called on the international community to assist populations affected by the food deficits.

FAO pledged to continue assisting farmers and pastoralists with agricultural inputs and cash transfers.

“It is critical to protect the livelihoods of the affected population especially now that the situation is compounded by the COVID-19 crisis,” Seid said.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said as the world battled COVID-19, farmers in East Africa were facing another devastating outbreak in the form of the desert locusts.

It fears that the new swarms could spark widespread crop loss and deepen already serious levels of food insecurity, especially in places reeling from conflict or violence.

John Karongo, the regional agronomist for the ICRC, based in Nairobi, Kenya, said farmers in East Africa were entering their most important planting season as new swarms were beginning to hatch.

“We have to act now to avert the worst,” Karongo said.

The ongoing rains have seen new swarms emerging in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia.

Rains provide the right conditions for the locusts to mature and lay eggs, with the possibility of moving to Uganda and South Sudan.

– CAJ News

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