New UK support to tackle locust swarms in East Africa
05-10-2020 07:32:00 | by: Pie Kamau | hits: 5319 | Tags:

The UK Government has provided a new package to help control millions of locusts attacking crops across East Africa, Yemen and South West Asia by spraying, monitoring and surveillance. The new UK Government support will be used to tackle this year’s unprecedented locust outbreaks in Kenya, where millions of insects are destroying thousands of hectares of crops.

With locust swarms growing 20 times larger since March 2020, UK International Development Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan announced KES 2.5 billion of new UK aid in response to the crisis during a visit to British company Micron Group, on the Isle of Wight, which supplies pesticide sprayers to the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

The impact of the plague of insects across Africa and Asia has been made worse by coronavirus, with vulnerable communities facing dwindling food supplies alongside the pandemic. Funded by the UK, the FAO is using Micron Group’s pesticide sprayers across Africa and Asia. Swarms of millions of insects can cover areas up to 100 square miles or more and these sprayers are able to cover large areas with pesticide.

Of the new funding, KES 2.3 billion will go to the FAO’s emergency appeal to help to control the increase of locusts across East Africa, Yemen and South West Asia, as well as reduce the risk of swarms spreading into the Sahel.

The UK will also provide up to KES 138 million to improve early warning and forecasting systems for desert locusts, so that countries can prepare for their arrival. This support, in collaboration with the University of Cambridge and weather data from the UK Met Office, will help the FAO to target locust breeding sites and control outbreaks before they’re able to affect crucial crops and pastures.

British High Commissioner to Kenya Jane Marriott said: ''The most vulnerable communities in Kenya are facing the effects of climate change, as the worst locust outbreak in 70 years destroys food supplies and livelihoods. The UK is working with the Kenyan government and partners to tackle and adapt climate led disasters like the locust outbreak and build resilience across the nation to future climate shocks.''

The World Bank estimates that the cost of supporting farmers and producers affected by locusts in East Africa and Yemen alone could reach $8.5 billion by the end of 2020.

International Development Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan said: ''Vulnerable communities are on the brink of starvation because of the biggest locust outbreak in decades, made worse by the coronavirus pandemic. British expertise is playing an important role in equipping companies with the right tools to combat the swarms and track where they will go next". But unless other countries also step up and act now, this crisis will spread and cause even more devastation.''

The new funding follows KES 1.1 billion provided by the UK earlier this year to the FAO appeal, supporting Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia, Sudan, South Sudan, Eritrea, Djibouti, Tanzania and Pakistan to destroy these pests. A supercomputer funded by UK aid is also helping countries in East Africa to track the insects’ movements around the continent.