Food security fears for East Africa as FAO warns of more locusts breeding

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NAIROBI, KENYA – There are food security fears for the East African region after desert locusts have been confirmed to also have spread to all the three East African countries.

The United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) alert Desert Locust Watch’ which monitors the movement of desert locusts in the world said the destructive desert locusts had crossed into Tanzania near Mount Kilimanjaro.

“On 9 February, there were reports that Desert Locust arrived in northeast Uganda near Amudat (0157N/3456E). Other reports indicated that Desert Locust had crossed the border into northern Tanzania close to Mt. Kilimanjaro, reaching Arusha and Moshi,” the update from FAO said on Monday.

The desert locusts spread to Kenya from Ethiopia rampaging through the northern part of the country before also crossing into Uganda from West Pokot and entering the Ugandan border district of Amudat in the Karamoja region.

“Breeding continues in the Horn of Africa, which will cause locusts to increase further in EthiopiaSomalia and Kenya with new swarms forming in March and April. Consequently, there is an unprecedented threat to food security and livelihoods in the region,” FAO warns.

MAP SHOWING MOVEMENT OF THE DESERT LOCUST IN E. AFRICA

The Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWSNET) a regional body which monitors food security in the region, has also already warned of a food security crisis in the region caused by the locusts.

However, in Uganda the destruction caused by the locusts has been minimal so far because first it’s the yellow mature locusts which entered which spend more time laying eggs in the sand than eating. Second, apart from the pasture, most of the gardens are now empty awaiting the next planting season so there was no damage to crops. The worst will be when the eggs hatch and the more destructive nymphs which move on the ground descend on the vegetation. Its more worrying because this will be in March and April when the planting season.

In a sign that the locusts problem is not about to end, FAO’s Desert Locust Watch says: In Somalia, second to fourth instar hopper bands are present in the northeast near Garowe. Other infestations are likely to be present in the northwest, central and southern areas where breeding is expected to be in progress.

It adds: Widespread hatching and band formation will occur in the coming weeks in KenyaEthiopia and Somalia. There remains a risk of a few small swarms appearing in northeast Uganda, southeast South Sudan and perhaps northern Tanzania in the coming days.

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