A swarm of desert locusts. Photo by Wikimedia Commons

UK pledges aid in battle against Africa’s locust plagues

Funding will help to fight the biggest locust outbreak in decades. The situation is being exacerbated by the pandemic.


A swarm of desert locusts. Photo by Wikimedia Commons

The UK government has pledged £18 million (around R381 million) to help fight the growing locust plague in Africa and parts of the Middle East and Asia.

Britain’s International Development Secretary, Anne-Marie Trevelyan, called the situation a “crisis” and “the biggest outbreak in decades” when she made the announcement.

Locust swarms are growing due to favourable weather

The swarms began moving around early this year and since then are said to have grown 20-times larger.

They did abate slightly, but are now on the increase again as favourable weather conditions enable the locusts to multiply at a rapid rate.

It seems Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya, Sudan and South Sudan are the hardest hit of the sub-Saharan African countries. Neighbouring countries such as Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi have so far been less affected so far.

Other African countries that have experienced problems include Eritrea and Djibouti. Yemen and Oman in the Middle East have had their own plagues. As have Iran, Pakistan and India in Asia.

Warning and forecasting systems being developed

“Of the new funding announced… £17 million will go to the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organisation’s 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 government statement said.

“The UK will also provide up to £1 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,” the statement added.

Vulnerable communities are on the brink

As part of the British aid effort, locust-affected countries are using pesticide sprayers from the UK-based Micron Group, a manufacturer of specialist spraying equipment for agricultural purposes.

According to Trevelyan, “vulnerable communities are on the brink of starvation because of the biggest locust outbreak in decades, made worse by the coronavirus pandemic.

 “But unless other countries also step up and act now, this crisis will spread and cause even more devastation,” she warned.