admin | November 23, 2020
At the end of a tough farming season, Ethiopian farmer Leila Mohammed was ready to harvest her millet crop with a sense of pride. But before she could harvest, she saw a gigantic swarm of locusts like a cloud approaching her fields. She waved a piece of cloth and beat steel plates to drive the swarm away, but in vain. Within minutes, the hard labour of months and the money she invested were ruined. Mrs. Mohammed is a mother of six who lives in Somali province, 50 kilometres north of the regional capital Jijjiga. This is the second locust attack in her region this farming season—and Ethiopia’s worst locust outbreak in 25 years. While officials are spraying insecticides by air, it’s having limited success.
At the end of a tough farming season, Ethiopian farmer Leila Mohammed was ready to harvest her millet crop with a sense of pride.
As she made plans and calculated profits, she saw a gigantic swarm of locusts like a cloud approaching her fields. She waved a piece of cloth and beat steel plates to drive the swarm away, but in vain. Within minutes, the hard labour of months and the money she invested were ruined.
Mrs. Mohammed is a mother of six who lives in Somali province, 50 kilometres north of the regional capital Jijjiga. She is looking at a bleak future.
She says, “They have destroyed my crop. I do not know what to do. We have lost food and the battle against desert locusts.”
She described the swarm as like a giant tornado high in the sky. Then the swarm descended and devastated crops.
This is the second such attack in the region during the current farming season.
Siba Aden Mohammed is a local official in the Awbare district of Fafen zone. He says that the area was sprayed with chemicals at the end of October and the swarms were paralyzed. But a week later, swarms returned and destroyed the remaining crops.
Devastation is visible in the area. Fields of millet, wheat, and chickpea are empty, and farmers are cursing their luck.
An airplane had sprayed insecticides to kill the locusts in the early morning, when they are most active. But farmers say it had little effect on the swarm.
Mr. Siba says, “The government is trying its best, sending aircraft, sprays, and experts. But it looks [like] nothing is working.”
Driving past the croplands, one can see farmers burning grass to create smoke, a signal to aircraft to spray chemicals at these places.
Farmers were expecting a good yield this year. Mr. Siba says, “If not for the locusts, the crops were in very good condition and they were ripening soon to be harvested.”
According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), since January, swarms of desert locusts have damaged over 200,000 hectares of cropland in Ethiopia, affecting the food security of millions of people.
Abdi Aden Abdi is the director of the Crop Production and Protection Department in Somali province. He says that 36 out of 93 districts have been affected by locusts so far. He adds: “We have employed six helicopters and a couple of fixed-wing aircraft to spray insecticides. But new swarms are showing up from neighboring Somaliland, as well as from other regions in Ethiopia.”
Mr. Abdi says they have been too busy trying to save crops to assess crop loss and its effects on food security and hunger.
He explains, “Our priority right now is getting rid of the locusts and saving crops that have not been touched so far from the invasion.”
According to Mr. Abdi, a committee of experts that includes central and state officials and representatives of FAO will meet soon to assess the damage.
Experts fear that the locust swarms will cause immense damage to Ethiopia’s economy. Since agriculture accounts for the lion’s share of GDP, any agricultural slowdown is expected to have cascading effects on overall economic progress.
Agriculture experts say that the swarms affecting East Africa originated in Yemen.
Despite all their efforts, agriculture officials say the problem is far from over. Mr. Abdi says the most worrying fact is that new swarms are mating and laying eggs, laying the groundwork for new swarms.
This story was adapted from an article originally written by Addis Getachew Tadesse and published by the Anadolu Agency titled, “Ethiopia: Worst locust outbreak in 25 years.” To read the full story, go to: https://www.aa.com.tr/en/africa/ethiopia-worst-locust-outbreak-in-25-years/2031673