Desert Locust a Probable Threat in IGAD Region

The 65th Greater Horn of Africa Climate Outlook Forum (GHACOF), which took place over two days and was themed “Climate Services for Scenario Planning and Resilience Building,” has revealed that a desert locust infestation is a probable threat to the Intergovernmental Authority for Development (IGAD) region.

Kenya has been free from desert locust invasions since the 2019 and 2020 infestations, which caught the country unprepared and caused widespread damage to crops and vegetation. The IGAD member states have since developed plans to prepare for a possible future attack, as desert locusts have been sighted in parts of the region.

Dr. Guleid Artan, director of the IGAD-Climate Prediction and Applications Center (ICPAC), said that the rains that are coming are a blessing, as they will help to alleviate the drought that the region has been facing. However, he also noted that the rains can create favorable conditions for desert locust infestations.

Dr. Artan revealed that desert locusts have already begun infesting northern Ethiopia and eastern Sudan. He commended the member states that are taking steps to prepare for a possible attack, as the desert locusts could last for up to a year in the region.

desert locust

Kenneth Mwangi, an agriculture monitoring expert using satellite data from the IGAD Climate Prediction Centre, said that monitoring pest situations is critical for developing preparedness plans.

“We look at how the pests are migrating from the region, from Yemen, South Arabia, Egypt, Sudan, Eritrea, Djibouti, and Ethiopia, before developing early warning information,” he said.

Mr. Mwangi said that monitoring has been effective through the use of a variety of tools, and has enabled the Ministries of Agriculture to prepare for an attack by procuring pesticides and taking other measures. He also raised concerns about the recent infestation of armyworms in some regions, which he sees as a sign of the impacts of climate change.

“We might have more locusts coming in in larger numbers, and due to El Niño, we are also seeing increased rains and temperatures. That means locusts are likely to multiply in big swarms,” said Mr. Mwangi of IGAD.

Dr. Artan called for greater integration among the IGAD member states in combating desert locusts, as they do not respect borders and can devastate livelihoods in any region.

“We have to up our game on control, which can only be achieved by putting in place measures for urgent response. For example, Ethiopia has bought five aircraft to control desert locusts. Every country in the region has aircraft and pesticides readily available to control the infestation before it can cause more harm,” said Dr. Artan.

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