Strongest storm ever in the Horn of Africa could impact current desert locust infestations in Somaliland in several ways

Farmers look for traces of the Desert Locust on their farmland in Quljeed village, Salal region, Somaliland, on 05 November 2019. OSRO/SOM/907/UK

(FAO) Representatives from the European Union, Germany and Switzerland visited various desert locust affected areas during a three-day mission. The main aim of this mission was to understand progress made so far in the fight against desert locust, engage with Government counterparts and help raise awareness on upcoming needs to continue the ongoing response as well as provide additional livelihood support. 

For more than a year now, the desert locust upsurge across the country has been the worst ever experienced in decades. The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is working around the clock, hand-in-hand with the Government authorities and partners to respond to this ongoing crisis.

Impact of Cyclone Gati 

On 22 November 2020, Cyclone Gati, which was initially formed in the Indian Ocean, made landfall near Xaafuun and the northern tip of northeast Puntland. “Being the strongest storm ever on record in Somalia, within a timeframe of only two days, twice the annual average of rainfall was fallen in the area,” says Dr. Ahmed Ali Maah, Director-General of the Ministry of Agricultural Development. 

“Rains and winds are two of the most favorable conditions for desert locusts to multiply rapidly and spread around fast to areas where they had been under control,” says Etienne Peterschmitt, FAO Representative in Somalia. “With these fresh rains and supported by prevailing winds, immature swarms that were present in the difficult to access highlands of Sanaag have matured and moved to Sool and Togdheer, seeking moist soils to lay their eggs,” he adds on. 

New threat for rural food security and livelihoods 

With this new invasion of desert locusts, large areas of cropland and pasture are at risk of being damaged, with potentially severe consequences for agricultural, agropastoral and pastoral livelihoods in a context where food security is already fragile. Widespread breeding is currently underway in eastern Ethiopia, central and southern Somalia, coupled with a potential expansion to northern Somalia. 

“By the second week of December, we expect numerous immature swarms to start forming,” says Alphonse Owuor, FAO Somalia Crop Protection Officer. “Many of these swarms will migrate further south to southern Ethiopia and southern Somalia, reaching most likely northern Kenya by mid-December. The potential scale of this migration could be substantial.”

On the desert locust livelihood response, agricultural and agro-pastoral households have received farming inputs for both the Gu (24,300 households) and the Deyr season (16,000 households) with a total of 7,468 farming households receiving cash.  To support the pastoral communities affected by desert locust, the delivery of 3,600 metric tonnes of livestock feed to 30,000 households is ongoing, with 2,450 households registered for Cash+ livestock inputs.

Continued support from donors critical 

Thanks to the generous contribution of several donors, FAO has been able to support a total of 17 ground survey and control teams, procured equipment such as vehicles and sprayers, purchased environmentally friendly pesticides and facilitated the operations of aerial service providers for aerial survey and control. 

“Ever since control operations started, we have been able to spray more than 110,000 hectares with biopesticides as well as insect growth regulators,” says Alphonse Owuor, FAO Somalia Crop Protection Officer. “Because of these spraying activities, we were able to safe/preserve 193,000 metric tonnes of cereals and productive assets for almost 90,000 pastoral households.”

“The upsurge is threatening people’s livelihoods and food security in an area that is already seriously food insecure,” says Johan Heffinck, Head of ECHO Somalia Office. “Having witnessed on the ground how the various control teams fight this ongoing desert locust pest, this is really a race against time. There is no time to waste.”  

The international community has committed USD 50.4 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 funds received will allow FAO and partners to sustain operations until early 2021. Nevertheless, additional funds for aerial contracts, for sprayers, vehicles and operational costs are urgently required to keep the operations going until at least June 2021. 


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