East Africa: UK Extends Support to Tackle Unprecedented Locust Outbreaks

Desert Locusts are partially sedated, paralysed, gather around trees and will die within 48 hours after aerial spraying (file photo).

ADDIS ABABA - UK announced 17 million Euro that will go to the FAO's emergency appeal to help to control the increase of locusts in Africa and Asia.

The recent UK aid package will help control millions of locusts attacking crops across East Africa, Yemen and South West Asia part.

The new funding of 18 million Euro will increase pesticide spraying, monitoring and surveillance. And with this aid the International Development Secretary calls on countries to work together to tackle the crisis come in different parts of the world due shocking locust swarms.

According to a press release sent to The Ethiopian Herald, the New UK-aid support will be used to tackle this year's unprecedented locust outbreaks across Africa and Asia, where millions of insects are destroying thousands of hectares of crops.

With locust swarms growing 20 times larger since March 2020, International Development Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan announced 18 million Euro of new UK aid in response to the crisis during a visit to British company Micron Group, on the Isle of Wight, which supplies pesticide sprayers to the United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

The impact of the wave of insects across Africa and Asia has been made worse by coronavirus, with vulnerable communities facing decreasing food supplies together with the pandemic.

Funded by UK aid, the FAO is using Micron Group's pesticide sprayers across Africa and Asia. Swarms of millions of insects can cover areas up to 100 square miles or more and these sprayers are able to cover large areas with pesticide.

Since January this year, the FAO has successfully controlled over 600,000 hectares of land, saved 1.2m tons crops with a value estimate of 372 million USD and eradicated over 400 million locusts in 10 countries in East Africa.

Of the new funding announced, 17 million Euro will go to the 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 will also provide up to one million Euro 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 World Bank estimates that the cost of supporting farmers and producers affected by locusts in East Africa and Yemen alone could reach 8.5 billion USD by the end of 2020.

Speaking during the visit, International Development Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan said "Vulnerable communities are on the brink of starvation because of the biggest locust outbreak in decades, made worse by the coronavirus pandemic.

"British expertise is playing an important role in equipping companies with the right tools to combat the swarms and track where they will go next.

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

The new funding follows 8 million Euro provided by the UK earlier this year to the FAO appeal, supporting Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia, Sudan, South Sudan, Eritrea, Djibouti, Tanzania and Pakistan to destroy these pests. A supercomputer funded by UK aid is also helping countries in East Africa to track the insects' movements around the continent.

During the visit, the International Development Secretary met with the directors from Micron Group to discuss how their sprayers have been key to tackling locusts in highly affected areas across the world. She also saw how the sprayers are assembled at their Isle of Wight factory and took part in a demonstration on how they work in the field.

Anthony Outlaw, Micron Group Operations Manager said: "Micron is proud to support the world on the fight against locusts through supplying cutting-edge equipment for the FAO. We have continued to work tirelessly throughout the pandemic to meet this demand. The whole team understand the importance of tackling this outbreak and the impact on food security it has for millions of people."

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