Geographies in Depth

Vast swarms of locusts are robbing Africans of their food and livelihood

A Samburu man attempts to fend-off a swarm of desert locusts flying over a grazing land in Lemasulani village, Samburu County, Kenya January 17, 2020. REUTERS/Njeri Mwangi - RC2LHE98PLHN

Desert locusts thrive on agricultural land, robbing farmers of their crop. Image: REUTERS/Njeri Mwangi

Giulia Paravicini
Writer, Reuters
Share:
Our Impact
What's the World Economic Forum doing to accelerate action on Geographies in Depth?
The Big Picture
Explore and monitor how Middle East and North Africa is affecting economies, industries and global issues
A hand holding a looking glass by a lake
Crowdsource Innovation
Get involved with our crowdsourced digital platform to deliver impact at scale
Stay up to date:

Middle East and North Africa

Ethiopian farmer Ahmed Ibrahim batted empty water bottles at a swarm of desert locusts the size of his palms that were devouring his field of khat - the mildly narcotic leaf that is his family’s main source of income.

“We have nothing else to sell at the market. How will I feed my eight children?” he asked helplessly, shouting over the sound of the insects as his children chased them with a yellow headscarf and a stick.

Desert locusts are seen within a grazing land in Lemasulani village, Samburu County, Kenya January 17, 2020. REUTERS/Njeri Mwangi - RC2LHE9QCDXN
Desert locusts. Image: REUTERS/Njeri Mwangi

The locusts devoured Ibrahim’s small grazing plot as his donkeys brayed anxiously and goats scrambled to eat the remaining foliage.

Scenes like this are happening across the Horn of Africa, where swarms of desert locusts have damaged tens of thousands of hectares so far, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said.

“These infestations represent a major threat to food security in Kenya and across the entire Horn of Africa, which is already reeling from floods and droughts,” said Bukar Tijani, FAO’s Assistant Director General, calling the swarms “vast and unprecedented”.

Breeding is continuing on both sides of the Red Sea, in Sudan and Eritrea and in Saudi Arabia and Yemen, the FAO said.

Samburu men attempt to fend-off a swarm of desert locusts flying over a grazing land in Lemasulani village, Samburu County, Kenya January 17, 2020. REUTERS/Njeri Mwangi     TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY - RC2LHE9A64LU
“The government needs to get serious about fighting them.” Image: REUTERS/Njeri Mwangi

The swarms spread from Ethiopia and Somalia into eastern and northern Kenya last week, threatening food production and the economy, Kenya’s then-agriculture minister said, before being fired in a cabinet reshuffle on Tuesday.

Kenya began aerial spraying in the north on Jan. 4 to head off the invasion.

Kenyan media showed police shooting bullets and teargas at an oncoming swarm as residents banged on buckets and hooted car horns to try to frighten the insects.

A farmers’ association in Kenya’s northern Laikipia area said it was planning aerial spraying of pesticides to combat the worst locust plague since 1954. The FAO estimated one swarm in Kenya to be 40 km wide by 60 km long (25 by 40 miles).

“These things are in their millions and will eat all the vegetation here. Our animals will not have anything to feed on,” said Peter Learpanai, a herdsman in the northern Samburu region who was flapping his jacket at a cloud of the insects that had descended on his grazing land.

“The government needs to get serious about fighting them.”

Don't miss any update on this topic

Create a free account and access your personalized content collection with our latest publications and analyses.

Sign up for free

License and Republishing

World Economic Forum articles may be republished in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Public License, and in accordance with our Terms of Use.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

Related topics:
Geographies in DepthIndustries in DepthGlobal Risks
Share:
World Economic Forum logo
Global Agenda

The Agenda Weekly

A weekly update of the most important issues driving the global agenda

Subscribe today

You can unsubscribe at any time using the link in our emails. For more details, review our privacy policy.

EU falling short of digital transformation goals, new report finds

David Elliott

July 19, 2024

About Us

Events

Media

Partners & Members

  • Sign in
  • Join Us

Language Editions

Privacy Policy & Terms of Service

© 2024 World Economic Forum