Horn of Africa: Locust Infestation - Oct 2019

Disaster description

A Desert Locust infestation has been ravaging crop and pasture-land, as well as trees and other vegetation since June 2019 in parts of Afar, Amhara, Somali and Tigray regions. The swarms have produced hopper bands that have covered more than 174 square kilometers (in 56 woredas and 1085 kebeles) and are consuming approximately 8,700 metric tons of green vegetation every day...In Afar region, the Desert Locust is spreading to Gewane and Amibara woredas. Over 21,000 hectares (across 15 woredas) was aerially sprayed. (OCHA, 3 Nov 2019)

The Desert Locust (Schistocerca gregaria) infestation in Ethiopia has deteriorated, despite ongoing ground and aerial control operations...Hoppers have fledged, and an increasing number of small immature and mature swarms have continued to devour crop and pasture fields in Tigray, Amhara, Oromia, and Somali regional states. In Amhara, some farms have registered nearly 100 percent loss of teff, a staple crop in Ethiopia. Moreover, eggs are hatching profusely and forming hopper bands in the Somali region, due to the heavy rainfall. The hopper bands recorded to date have covered more than 351 km2 and are consuming at least 1 755 000 MT of green vegetation per day...If not controlled, the Desert Locusts could continue moving within Ethiopia and invade northeast Kenya, the western lowlands and highlands of Eritrea, the Red Sea coastal plains in Eritrea, and adjacent southern coastal areas in Sudan. (FAO, 7 Nov 2019)

Despite major control and prevention operations, substantial crop losses have already occurred in the Amhara and Tigray regions of Ethiopia. The hopper bands -- young locust populations moving together -- have covered nearly 430 square kilometres and have consumed about 1.3 million metric tonnes of vegetation over a two-month period. The formation of bands is ongoing in the rangelands of the Ethiopian Somali Region; and massive new swarms will arrive from Yemen and Somalia. In Eritrea, big swarms of immature adults that migrated from Ethiopia, were identified and controlled around Shieb, Gahtielay, Wengebo and Beareze of the Northern Red Sea Coast. Moreover, the swarms of Tree Locust have been detected in Tserona, Mai-seraw, Quatit and Digsa districts of Southern Eritrea. (FAO, 16 Dec 2019)

The rains have provided favourable conditions for the further breeding of locusts, resulting in total loss of vegetable, fruit and fodder crops, including free-grazing areas. The infestation represents a real threat which could trigger human and animal starvation. The locusts' destruction has impacted Arta, Ali-Sabieh (100 per cent), and Dikhil (As Eyla and Hanle areas) regions, affecting 80 per cent of the total cultivated land. There are reports indicating that the invasion is expanding to the Tadjourah and Obock regions. (OCHA, 16 Dec 2019)

Somalia faces the worst Desert Locust outbreak in over 25 years. Desert Locust breeding is ongoing in Galmudug (Mudug), Puntland and Somaliland. An estimated 70 000 hectares of land have been infested by hoppers and breeding adults, which have already damaged crops and pasture in Ethiopia and Somalia. Over the next six months, more than 100 000 hectares of land will require direct control interventions in Somalia. (FAO, 18 Dec 2019)

The current situation remains extremely serious in the Horn of Africa where, despite control operations, an increasing number of swarms formed in eastern Ethiopia, including the Ogaden, and perhaps adjacent areas of northwest Somalia. Although some swarms moved to Eritrea and Djibouti, the majority moved south in the Ogaden and Somalia, and several large swarms reached Kenya at the end of the month. There is a risk that some swarms could possibly reach South Sudan and Uganda. (FAO, 06 Jan 2020)

The unusually heavy rains that have impacted Eastern Africa since October 2019—driven by the strongest positive Indian Ocean Dipole since 2016—have contributed to a serious and widespread desert locust outbreak, according to FAO and IGAD*. Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and Sudan have been affected, with the outbreaks in Ethiopia and Somalia the worst in 25 years, and in Kenya the worst in 75 years. There remains a risk that locusts could appear in south-east South Sudan and north-east Uganda. (OCHA, 17 Jan 2020)

The Government of Djibouti estimates that the damage caused by the Desert Locust infestations on vegetation cover (crops and pastures) have already caused a loss of around USD 5 million for the six regions of the country. (Djibouti Govt/FAO, 03 Feb 2020)

The situation remains extremely alarming in Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia where widespread Desert Locust infestations and a new generation of breeding threatens food security and livelihoods in the region. The situation is less worrisome in Uganda and Tanzania. (FAO, 17 Feb 2020)

Desert locusts have rapidly spread across the Greater Horn of Africa in the worst infestation in decades. Despite control efforts, eight countries in eastern Africa are now affected (Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Uganda and the United Republic of Tanzania). (FAO, 26 Feb 2020)

Across the ten countries covered by the appeal, over 365 000 ha have been controlled to date, of which an estimated 20 percent was infested by hopper bands and 80 percent by swarms. Thanks to these operations, and based on very preliminary analyses and projections of areas controlled and likely damage caused if not controlled, it is anticipated that 720 000 tonnes of cereal have already been saved, worth around USD 220 million. This is enough to feed almost 5 million people for one year. Through damage averted to rangeland and livestock tropical units, an additional 350 000 pastoral households have been spared from livelihood loss and distress. (FAO, 11 May 2020)

In East Africa, only a few immature swarms remain in northwest Kenya where aerial control operations continue. A small third generation of breeding is likely to commence in October but may be limited by below-normal Short Rains that are predicted for this year. In northeast Ethiopia, numerous hopper bands are present mainly in the Afar region from substantial breeding. Although aerial control operations are in progress, new swarms are likely to form in the coming weeks. In Somalia, aerial control operations using biopesticides are making good progress against immature swarms on the northern plateau in Somaliland and Puntland. Further south, an increasing number of adult groups were reported in the central region of Galguduud in the past week. In Yemen, hopper bands and swarms continue to be present in the interior and are spreading to coastal areas in the south and on the Red Sea. Limited control operations were undertaken in some areas. (FAO, 18 Sep 2020)

Important and widespread breeding continues in eastern Ethiopia and central Somalia where new swarms are expected to start forming in early December and move south to Kenya and southern Somalia by mid-December. Control operations are underway. In Eritrea, immature swarms that arrived from northern Ethiopia have scattered throughout the highlands to nearly the Sudan border. In Sudan, hopper bands and immature adult groups are persisting between the Red Sea Hills and the Atbara River. More immature swarms have been seen in the Tokar Delta on the Red Sea coast in the past few days. In Yemen, summer-bred swarms are still present in parts of the interior. On the 8th, a swarm was seen flying near Bayhan. (FAO, 12 Nov 2020)

According to a recent Government report, desert locust infestation in July has damaged 365,015 hectares of cropland, including 283,172 hectares in East and West Hararge zone of Oromia region (impacting 499,505 farmers) and 81,843 hectares in Oromo Special Zone, South Wollo, and North Wollo zones in Amhara region (impacting 795,774 farmers). Separate reports indicated that similar infestations have destroyed 95 hectares of cropland in Afar region, as well as 132,596 hectares of cropland and 283,457 hectares of pastureland in Amhara region. Widespread locust breading activities is currently witnessed in eastern Ethiopia. While, few immature swarms persist in Afar region, the immature swarms between Jijiga and Degehabur in Somali region are more of concern, as some are maturing. With this development, the epicenter of the locust seems to have moved from northern Ethiopia to eastern Ethiopia as the hopper bands in the North have moved to Eritrea and good rainfall in eastern Ethiopia has created favorable breeding conditions. The situation would have been much worse without the control operations that have increased over the month of October, treating an estimated 335,453 hectares of land across Ethiopia. (OCHA, 20 Nov 2020)

Numerous immature swarms formed in eastern Ethiopia and central Somalia during December, which moved to southern Ethiopia, reaching northern Kenya on 21 December. More swarms will arrive during January and spread throughout southern Ethiopia and northern, central, and eastern counties of Kenya where they will mature and lay eggs that will hatch and give rise to hopper bands from late January onwards. (FAO, 4 Jan 2021)

In Kenya, immature swarms persist mainly in northern and central counties. In the past five days, swarms have been reported in 15 counties. [...] A similar situation is underway in Ethiopia where immature swarms persist mainly in southern SNNP (South Omo) and east of the Rift Valley in Oromia (Bale, Borema, Arsi). [...] In Somalia, a few new immature swarms have started to form in the past few days from breeding in the northeast (Puntland) where hopper bands are still present. [...] In Yemen, scattered adults are maturing along the Red Sea coastal plains where small scale breeding could occur in the few areas that remain favourable. Current infestations are not high enough to warrant control operations. No surveys were conducted recently along the Gulf of Aden plains. (FAO, 9 Feb 2021)

In Kenya, a few small immature swarms continue to be seen mainly in the Rift Valley of Nakuru county west of Mt. Kenya. There were also occasional swarm reports south of Nairobi and further north in Samburu county. In Ethiopia, control operations continue against a few small immature swarms in the highlands east of the Rift Valley, mainly in Arsi district of Oromia region and, to a lesser extent, further north in East Harerghe district. The situation has calmed down in southern Oromia and SNNP. In Somalia, control operations are continuing in the northeast (Puntland) against some immature swarms on the plateau northwest of Iskushuban. In the northwest (Somaliland), scattered immature adults are present on the plateau between Hargeisa and Burao. In northern Tanzania, small-scale hatching occurred northwest of Arusha from remnants of mature swarms that laid eggs at the beginning of March. In Saudi Arabia, locust infestations declined on the northern Red Sea coast. (FAO, 9 Feb 2021)

The current upsurge showed signs of significant decline during March as Desert Locust swarms continued to decrease in Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia due to ongoing control operations and poor rainfall... Limited breeding occurred in northeast Tanzania from remnants of earlier swarms. Although winter-bred infestations declined along both side of the Red Sea, late hatching and hopper band formation occurred in Sudan. More importantly, widespread hatching and hopper band formation took place in the interior of Saudi Arabia where control operations combined with earlier than normal dry and hot conditions should be able to reduce these infestations. In addition, strong winds carried a few small mature swarms to Kuwait and southwest Iran. This could lead to hatching and band formation in southwest Iran during April and May. (FAO, 3 Apr 2021)

Desert Locust swarms are continuing to decline in Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia as a result of ongoing control operations. However, good rains have fallen this month in parts of northern Kenya and southern Ethiopia that should allow current swarms to mature and lay eggs. This is likely to give rise to hatching and the formation of hopper bands during May. (FAO, 13 Apr 2021)

Ground teams are detecting an increasing number of early instar hopper bands that are forming in eastern Ethiopia and northwest Somalia as more eggs hatch. This will continue until about mid-June as mature swarms are still laying eggs in some places. Ground and aerial control operations are in progress. In Saudi Arabia, control operations continue in the spring breeding areas of the interior where groups of immature adults have formed and are likely to move south to Yemen for eventual breeding in the interior. So far, a few groups have already migrated to within about 100 km of Yemen. A new round of breeding signifies the potential for a further increase in locust numbers in the Horn of Africa. If hopper band infestations are not adequately detected and treated, new smarms could form from late June onwards and move west during July to the Afar region in northeast Ethiopia for summer breeding. Locust numbers could build up in the interior of Yemen that may eventually threaten the Horn of Africa. (FAO, 27 May 2021)

Aerial control operations continue against a few small immature swarms on the plateau in northwest Somalia while one swarm was seen in the northeast. Limited swarm breeding is thought to be underway in northern Ethiopia where good rains have fallen, but the security situation has deteriorated in the Afar region during the past week, hampering survey and control operations by air and ground. In Yemen, small-scale breeding is underway in the interior. Elsewhere, the situation remains calm, and no significant developments are likely. Swarms are not likely to move from Ethiopia and Somalia to Eritrea, Sudan, Yemen, and Saudi Arabia now. Instead, the swarms in northern Somalia may move back and forth across the Ethiopia / Somalia border where they are likely to persist and remain immature due to dry conditions. (FAO, 12 Aug 2021)

The locust situation remains serious in the Horn of Africa and Yemen. As anticipated, new immature swarms began to form after mid-September in the summer breeding areas of northeast Ethiopia and most likely in adjacent areas of the northern highlands where hopper bands were reported. The scale of the breeding is not well known, and control operations could not be conducted due to insecurity. Although limited field operations began to resume in some areas by the end of the month, more small immature swarms will form in Afar, Tigray, and Amhara regions of Ethiopia during October. As vegetation dries out, they will migrate north through the highlands to Eritrea and the Red Sea coast as well as east perhaps through Djibouti at times to eastern Ethiopia and northern Somalia. October rains that are expected in the Somali region of eastern Ethiopia and adjacent plateau and coastal areas of northern Somalia will allow the summer-bred swarms and the remaining spring-bred swarms to mature and lay eggs, giving rise to hatching and hopper band formation from about early November onwards. Similarly, any swarms that reach the Red Sea coast of Eritrea from northern Ethiopia are likely to mature and breed once winter rains commence. Although limited control operations were carried out in the interior of Yemen, more small swarms are expected to form and move to coastal areas along the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden for eventual breeding. A few swarms may cross to northern Somalia while any swarms that reach the Red Sea coast of Yemen could continue to adjacent coastal areas of southwest Saudi Arabia. Elsewhere, the situation is calm. (FAO, 1 Oct 2021)

The few spring-bred swarms that have remained in northeast Somalia are now mature and starting to copulate. No swarms have been reported recently in northwest Somalia, Djibouti, or Ethiopia. Nevertheless, a few summer-bred swarms are likely to have formed in parts of Afar and adjacent areas of southeast Tigray and eastern Amhara regions. Unfortunately, this cannot be confirmed as most areas are not accessible. No surveys have been conducted recently in Yemen where a few summer-bred swarms are likely to be present in parts of the interior. In Sudan, only low numbers of scattered adults are present in the interior with local breeding in the Bayuda Desert north of Khartoum where a few groups are forming as vegetation dries out. Elsewhere, the situation remains calm. (FAO, 14 Oct 2021)

A few small mature swarms, most likely those that arrived on the Ethiopia/Kenya border earlier this month, have concentrated in southern Ethiopia between Konso and the Kenya border where control operations are underway. There have been no further reports of locusts in Kenya and elsewhere in Ethiopia. Aerial and ground control operations continue against small hopper bands in northeast Somalia while scattered adults persist in the northwest. (FAO, 24 Nov 2021)

As late instar hopper bands continue to fledge, more new small immature swarms are forming in northeast Somalia where aerial and ground control operations are in progress north of Garowe. Limited aerial control operations continue against a few small immature and mature swarms that persist in the Rift Valley of SNNP near the Kenya border. Low numbers of solitarious locusts are present in winter breeding areas along both sides of the Red Sea and on the Gulf of Aden coast of northwest Somalia, and limited breeding has started in a few places. (FAO, 23 Dec 2021)

After more than two years, the current Desert Locust upsurge has finally declined. Aerial control operations against the few small immature swarms that remained in northeast Somalia ended on 4 January. During the remainder of the month, no locusts were seen in Ethiopia and Kenya, and southerly migration was not detected. As ecological conditions are dry due to a lack of rainfall in the Horn of Africa, the likelihood of any further developments in the region is low but vigilance is suggested during February. Adding to the collapse of the upsurge, poor rains have limited winter breeding to a small area along both sides of the Egypt/Sudan border on the Red Sea coast. While small-scale breeding may occur during February on the coastal plains near the Sudan/Eritrea border and in a few places on the Saudi Arabia and Yemen coast, it is likely to be limited and should not cause a significant increase in locusts. (FAO, 1 Feb 2022)

The current Desert Locust upsurge has finally ended in the Horn of Africa after more than two years of intensive survey and control operations carried out by ground and air with generous support from the international community. For nearly the second consecutive month, no significant locust infestations have been detected in Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia, and Kenya during February. Although rain has not fallen recently and ecological conditions are dry, small groups of immature adults were seen moving southwards in eastern Ethiopia, which suggests that a few residual infestations may still be present. Therefore, surveys and vigilance should be maintained. (FAO, 2 Mar 2022)

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