Locusts are destructive migratory pests that swarm countries in their search for food. When they arrive, entire crops can be lost overnight. With many nations in Africa already struggling with food insecurity, the presence of these insects can change lives instantly.
Farmers in Niger experienced this issue first-hand in 2005. As families were about to harvest their crops, swarms of desert locusts came through the area. It took less than a day for the insects to destroy everything. Truckloads of people left the region less than a month later because there was no food left to eat.
The worst outbreak of locusts in decades is happening right now in Africa. Nothing like what is happening today has been seen in Kenya for at least 70 years. Somalia and Ethiopia are dealing with problems that haven’t happened in a generation. These countries are seeing crops and pastured wiped out.
Why Is the Desert Locust Such a Destructive Insect?
The reason why locust swarms are so problematic is because of the appetite of the insect and the distance it can fly every day.
A single locust can travel over 100 miles in a day. It can also eat its own weight in food. That means a swarm of these insects the size of New York City could eat as much food as the entire human populations of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and New York.
What is happening in Africa today is unlike anything that anyone has seen in the region for a long time. The countries that are getting hit the hardest are also the ones that need food the most. Millions of people are already enduring the impact of drought, floods, and violence.
Having locusts take their food away could be the final straw that leads to devastating consequences.
What Happens If We Don’t Take Action?
Today’s locust swarms must get under control by around the end of March. That’s when the beginning of the planting season starts because the rain comes back to Africa. Since the insects are very mobile and the terrain is challenging, logistical difficulties will always exist.
If nothing happens to control these insects, the combination of crops and the additional rain could increase their population numbers by 500 times in the next three months.
The FAO seeks up to $76 million from donors and organizations to help fight this outbreak of locusts. As the insects spread, the amount required will likely rise. If you’d like to contribute to this effort, then you can donate directly to the FAO emergency fund.
This is not the first country to deal with insects. Japan has to deal with mosquitoes, although they are a different type of threat. It is unknown if Africa or nations dealing with similar threats can adapt methodologies from Japan or other nations to combat pest problems.