The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and Somalia have recently strengthened their partnership to scale up local capacities, surveillance and control operations to combat the desert locust upsurge.
In partnership with the Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation of the Federal Government of Somalia, FAO is directly supporting Desert Locust Control Unit stations to undertake vital survey and control operations. The current situation is critical, with a second generation of mature adults laying eggs and a new generation of immature adults forming swarms in Ethiopia and Kenya. These could reach Somalia during the main Gu season, ravaging young crops and pasture.
“FAO’s technical expertise and capacity to mobilize resources is key for Somalia to confront this crisis. Even in times of coronavirus, we must not forget the massive threat that desert locusts pose to Somalia’s food security and livelihoods,” said Said Hussein Iid, Minister of Agriculture and Irrigation. “Despite the current circumstances dominated by the COVID-19 pandemic, it is crucial that we keep reinforcing our collaboration and continue the hard work to contain the desert locust upsurge, and to protect lives and livelihoods. Otherwise, we could end up in a serious food crisis by the end of the year,” added Etienne Peterschmitt, FAO Representative in Somalia.
Scaling up capacities, biopesticide supply and control operations
Thanks to concerted efforts by the Government and FAO, 31 026 ha of land have been controlled out of the 360 000 ha estimated to be affected across the country. Ground control has been strengthened with the purchase of 18 vehicles for spraying, in addition to another 15 vehicles currently on hire for survey and control in northern and central Somalia. Recently, 12 vehicle-mounted sprayers and 10 backpack sprayers were delivered in Hargeisa and Mogadishu, with a further 10 vehicle-mounted sprayers triangulated from Mali and Morocco to support control efforts. Given the vast areas that need to be sprayed, three helicopters are being mobilized to Somalia to carry out aerial control operations.
A new consignment of 2000 kg of biopesticides has also been delivered and will be distributed between Dushamareb, Garowe and Hargeisa. “Nature-based biopesticides are a reliable, less harmful alternative for controlling locust outbreaks in fragile environments like Somalia,” said Minister Said Hussein Iid. Two national desert locust officers were recently hired by FAO in Somalia to support surveillance and control operations in the main breeding grounds; one is stationed in Garowe in Puntland and one in Hargeisa, Somaliland. Gathering reliable information in some parts of southern Somalia remains a challenge due to security and access constraints. Nonetheless, Hirshabelle, Jubaland and Southwest states are monitoring mature egg-laying locusts as well as the formation of new swarms.
A new generation threatens rural food security and livelihoods
Locust breeding and egg laying have recently been witnessed in Galmudug, Puntland and Somaliland, and hatching occurred throughout the first half of April. Meanwhile rains are ensuring the availability of suitable vegetation to sustain the development of the third generation of desert locust in Somalia. Rural areas and populations will be most affected by the infestation, including riverine farmers, agropastoralists, pastoralists and internally displaced people.
Updated request for funding
The international community has committed USD 24.2 million so far to support the FAO and Government-led Desert Locust 2020 Somalia Action Plan, against a total requirement of USD 57 million. The main donors to the desert locust response are Germany and the United States of America, with generous contributions received also from France, Sweden, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund, the European Union, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Mastercard Foundation, among others.
Protecting lives and livelihoods is the second pillar of FAO’s Action Plan alongside immediate response to control desert locust. With funds received to-date, FAO will be able to reach 24 000 households with farming inputs, and a further 30 000 households with supplementary animal feed. FAO’s plan supports Government-led response to the desert locust upsurge in Somalia, declared a national emergency on 2 February 2020.