EU gives Sh1 billion to strengthen gains in desert locust fight in East Africa

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Locust control operations in East Africa have prevented the loss of four million tonnes of cereal and 800 million litres of milk production.

The locust control effort in East Africa also helped avert a further spread westward to Africa’s vulnerable Sahel region.

The Food and Agriculture Organization has welcomed Sh1 billion contribution from the European Union to fight desert locust upsurge in Kenya, Ethiopia, Somalia and Sudan.

FAO director-general Qu Dongyu said the funding will be used to bridge time-sensitive, critical gaps in procurement, survey, and control operations in the remaining two most-at-risk countries, Ethiopia and Somalia.

“It will also enable a quick response if the situation changes and needs arise in Kenya and the Sudan.”

“This is designed to ensure the continuity of activities carried out by FAO in support of national governments so that the locust fighting force assembled in East Africa in the past year remains vigilant and ready to contain any new threats to the livelihoods of agricultural communities,” he said in statement released on Friday.

This will also enable countries in the Horn of Africa to maintain readiness in the face of a possible resurgence of desert locusts.

The European Commission announced the funding – from the European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations- as another example of the EU’s sustained commitment to control the upsurge since its early days in 2020.

“I want to thank the European Union and all other supporters for their generous contribution and ongoing assistance in the battle to control the desert locust upsurge, enabling critical livelihood-safeguarding activities,” the director-general noted said.

Qu further noted that national governments in collaboration with FAO and partners have achieved major progress in controlling the desert locust in East Africa.

“However, the operations must continue and we cannot afford to let down our guard,” Qu said.

According to FAO desert locust update, recent rainfall has enabled swarms in eastern Ethiopia and northern Somalia to mature and lay eggs. Additional breeding of the voracious pest may also take place in northern Kenya but on a much smaller scale.

However, the desert locust upsurge continues to decline in the Horn of Africa. thanks to control operations.

Qu said ECHO’s latest contribution will also support the procurement of additional biopesticides to help sustain control activities beyond the second quarter of 2021.

“As the record-setting locust upsurge gained momentum in East Africa last year, the European Commission was an early responder to the threat, providing Sh3.6 billion from its Directorate-General for International Cooperation and Development. Additional EU contributions of Sh794 million came from ECHO in 2020, including aSh664 million allocation for Somalia, South Sudan and the Sudan,” he said.

FAO indicates the desert locust is considered the most destructive migratory pest in the world and a small swarm covering one square kilometer can eat the same amount of food in one day as 35 000 people.