DUBAI: The EU has pledged €8 million ($9.72 million) toward the fight to combat the spread of desert locusts in Africa.
The EU contribution was from its European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO) and was welcomed by the director general of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Qu Dongyu.
“I want to thank the EU 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,” Dongyu said.
“National governments in collaboration with FAO and partners have achieved major progress in controlling this pest in East Africa, but operations must continue and we cannot afford to let down our guard.” The desert locust is considered the most destructive migratory pest in the world and a small swarm covering 1 sq. km. can eat the same amount of food in one day as 35,000 people.
The surge in the spread of the pest began in early 2020, but experts have warned that recent rainfall in the Horn of Africa has enabled swarms in eastern Ethiopia and northern Somalia to mature and lay eggs.
The latest outbreak is the worst recorded locust upsurge in Ethiopia and Somalia for 25 years and the worst infestation that Kenya has experienced in 70 years.
“As the region is already extremely vulnerable, given three years of drought followed by last year’s heavy rains and floods, compounded by COVID-19 and insecurity, desert locust swarms represent an additional shock that can have severe consequences for food security and livelihoods,” Keith Cressman, senior locust forecasting officer at FAO’s Desert Locust Information Service (DLIS), told Arab News in February.
Although Saudi Arabia has fought to contain desert locusts for decades, the FAO said the impending swarms pose a far greater threat to the Kingdom, Eritrea, Sudan and Yemen than those seen previously.
The Saudi government is taking precautions thanks to a well-established national program and the work of the Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture’s Locusts and Migratory Pests Control Center, based in Jeddah.