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FAO Desert Locust campaign: East Africa upsurge suppressed, Kenya free from Desert Locust
Wednesday, 2022/06/22 | 08:11:18

Figure: Sergeant Brian Odhiambo imparts a lesson on how to use spraying tools to National Youth Service officers during a training on desert locust control in Gilgil, Kenya. ©FAO/Luis Tato


FAO News - 15/06/2022

Interview with Cyril Ferrand, FAO’s Resilience Team Leader for East Africa, and Carla Mucavi, FAO Country Representative in Kenya


- What is the Desert Locust situation in East Africa/Kenya right now?


Cyril Ferrand: 


The locust situation is currently very quiet. We have declared the upsurge is over in the entire region for two main reasons: first, we had a massive and aggressive locust campaign in close cooperation with the governments. Second, the region is facing a severe drought situation, which means that conditions are no longer favourable for the Desert Locust to breed. It does not mean that there are no Desert Locusts in the region; FAO is still monitoring their presence. We are back to what we call the recession of Desert Locust, which means they are still present but they are under control and do not pose any threat to the region – not at all in Kenya neither in Somalia nor in Ethiopia.


Carla Mucavi:


Kenya is currently free from Desert Locust after two consecutive invasions in 2019 and 2020. We were able to come together and control the invasions. This happened after 70 years without seeing any locust in this country. No one was prepared to address the invasion of such magnitude. FAO was the only UN agency that had the expertise and knowledge that made it possible to address the challenges posed by the Desert Locust. We were able to mobilize the necessary expertise and resources and provide timely forecasts that helped Kenya in terms of training, surveillance, control, spraying the areas with pesticides, while minimizing the risk for the communities and their crops.


Although Kenya is currently free from Desert Locust, it does not mean that we can afford to lower our guard. As we know, Desert Locust is a migratory pest that knows no boundaries, and we have to remain vigilant and continue to do surveillance and control. 


- How were locusts brought under control? What was FAO’s role?


Cyril Ferrand:


The problem that we faced in a number of countries, especially those that are not the frontline countries like Kenya, is that they did not have the adequate capacity to address the threat. As you can imagine, in any country in the world, it is very hard to maintain capacity to respond to a shock that happens only every 70 years as in Kenya’s case. Just to compare with COVID-19, the world was not prepared for it because it was abnormal and for the first time. Here, we somehow saw the same: when you do not see an invasion for long periods of time you have a generational gap of expertise and it is hard to invest resources in preparedness in something that is unlikely to happen, especially if you have competing priorities such as droughts, floods and other shocks.


What FAO did was to create a minimum capacity for governments to conduct surveys and control operations. We have trained 3 800 people in the entire region on how to use innovative applications such as eLocust3 to recognize and report on Desert Locust. We helped the Government to establish a national locust information office to manage the data for daily field operations. We also purchased vehicles and motorbikes for the governments to be more mobile. We procured pesticides, provided people with safety protection kits including masks, gloves, overclothes and glasses. And, finally, we hired a number of aircrafts and helicopters to increase capacity on surveillance and control. 


Carla Mucavi: 


This was a combination of efforts and teamwork, well-coordinated by FAO under the strong leadership of the Government. Controlling Desert Locust was a complex task, and the magnitude of the invasion really required a lot of resources. We worked in close collaboration with national Government, counties at the subnational level, as well as with the communities and the press to raise awareness about the situation. FAO had to train people, particularly youth, on how to use new technologies such as eLocust3 to be able to report on the locust upsurge.   


The Government of Kenya with the support of FAO, managed the first and second wave of the Desert Locust invasion. FAO raised about $24 million from 18 donors, resources that were used to procure insecticides, vehicles, spray equipment and facilitate human resource. In terms of operation, the resources were used to facilitate survey and control activities and further used to support livelihood recovery. By the end of the two waves, a total of 19 million hectares had been surveyed out of which 212 000 hectares were sprayed (treated). Spraying protected 320 000 hectares that could have been invaded. These data show the role that FAO played in saving crops and lives. The control efforts averted the loss of more than 11 000 hectares of crops worth around $3.4 million. Consequently, more than 75 000 people were able to meet their annual cereal needs and almost 5 500 households were able to feed their livestock and produce milk, to improve dietary diversity and nutrition.  


See more: https://www.fao.org/newsroom/detail/fao-desert-locust-campaign-east-africa-upsurge-supressed-kenya-free-from-desert-locust/en


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