Locust swarms creating food crisis for struggling communities

Locusts in Laisamis in Marsabit County in Kenya where Concern Worldwide is assessing the damage the swarms are having on communities. Photo by Concern Worldwide
Locusts in Laisamis in Marsabit County in Kenya where Concern Worldwide is assessing the damage the swarms are having on communities. Photo by Concern Worldwide

Massive swarms of locusts are devouring entire fields of crops in as little as 30 seconds and fuelling fears of a major food crisis in some of the world’s poorest countries, Irish aid agency Concern Worldwide has warned.

The Irish charity said communities in Pakistan, Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia are facing alarming food shortages with the crops they grow to survive being eaten in seconds by flying desert locusts.

“It only takes 30 seconds for a swarm to eat an entire field,” said Concern Kenya Country Director Amina Abdulla.

“Millions of locusts are eating all vegetation in their path including food crops that are absolutely crucial for survival here.”

'These are troubled times'

Amina said the devastating swarms – which have made headlines around the world as affected countries declare national emergencies – recently split into two directions in Kenya, heading west and south. 

“This is extremely worrying and has major implications for Kenya in terms of food security,” she said.

Concern staff in Kenya are assessing the damage and planning to support families through cash aid and seed distribution to try and avert a food crisis.

Similar locust swarms in Ethiopia are the worst the country has seen in 25 years, with an estimated 235,000 hectares of crop, pasture and forest invaded by the infestation so far.

Meanwhile in Somalia, rural communities already struggling to cope following unusually heavy rains and flash floods in the second half of 2019 are especially vulnerable now to the effect of the massive locust swarms.

In several locations, precious crops have been destroyed and Concern’s team in Somalia are conducting an assessment of the damage and the needs of the people affected.

'Risking our very survival'

In Pakistan, locust swarms are testing the resilience of people in drought affected areas of the southeast and west.

“These are troubled times,” said an elderly man from Tharparkar in the Sindh province.

“First, we suffered from long years of drought and now this locust attack. Last year’s rainfall had raised our hopes for a better crop yield, but the locusts have destroyed everything.

“They are eating the newly grown grass at a very fast rate, which means that there will be no fodder available for our livestock.

“The locust attack has deprived us of our crops, our livelihood and is risking our very survival.”

The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has estimated that the locust swarms will grow up to 500 times their current size by June if sufficient measures to tackle them are not taken soon. 

ENDS

For more information, please contact Kevin Jenkinson at 086 358 2886 or at kevin.jenkinson@concern.net.

 

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