Locust swarms threaten food security: UN

MUSCAT: United Nations has warned that swarms of desert locusts facing the East African and the Gulf region, the worst outbreak in decades, pose an extremely alarming threat to food security and livelihoods. United Nations said the current situation may be further worsened by new breeding that will produce more locust infestations in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia and other countries.
According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), there is a relationship between environmental factors, climate change, and the locust population.
It says, “During quiet periods, desert locusts are usually restricted to the semi-arid and arid deserts of Africa, the Near East and South-West Asia that receive less than 200 mm of rain annually. In normal conditions, locust numbers decrease either by natural mortality or through migration’’.
However, the last five years have been hotter than any other since the industrial revolution and since 2009. Studies have linked a hotter climate to more damaging locust swarms, leaving Africa disproportionately affected — 20 of the fastest-warming countries globally are in Africa. Wet weather also favours the multiplication of locusts. Widespread, above-average rain that pounded the Horn of Africa from October to December 2019 was up to 400 per cent above the normal rainfall amount. These abnormal rains were caused by the Indian Ocean dipole, a phenomenon accentuated by climate change.
Desert locusts are ravaging crops in the field before harvesting, wiping out livestock and wildlife feed, and with the savings, assets and livelihoods.
Controlling desert locust swarms primarily uses organophosphate chemicals by vehicle-mounted and aerial sprayers, and to a lesser extent by knapsack and hand-held sprayers.