Desert locust outbreak at crisis point

  • Horn of Africa nations bear brunt of worst plague in decades
  • Coronavirus pandemic hampers efforts to contain growing swarms

A desert-locust plague in the Horn of Africa has reached critical proportions, according to Gro Intelligence, a privately funded commodity data and analysis service.

More than 25 million hectares (61.8 million acres) of farmland are affected in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia — the three countries hardest hit by the voracious insects — Gro Intelligence said in an emailed report. “Approximately 18 million hectares, or 84% of crop-land in Ethiopia, is now affected by locusts,” while in Kenya and Somalia, 33% and 85% of crops are at risk, it said.

Countries from Uganda to Kenya, Somalia, and Ethiopia are battling the worst locust invasion in decades, a crisis exacerbated by the coronavirus emergency that has restricted air travel to slow transmission of the pandemic. New swarms also threaten Yemen, Iran and Saudi Arabia.

“Driven by widespread rains and near-perfect breeding conditions in late March, locust swarms in East Africa have gotten larger and more destructive since they were first reported earlier this year,” Gro Intelligence said.