Read more about FAO in emergencies and the Desert Locust crisis in the Horn of AfricaSince June 2019, Ethiopia has been responding to a desert locust invasion in six regions – Afar, Amhara, Dire Dawa, Oromia, Somali and Tigray. To date, hopper bands have covered more than 429 km² and are consuming at least 1 755 000 MT of green vegetation per day. In January the swarms were also seen moving towards the Rift Valley – the bread basket of the country.

Weather conditions in the region have been conducive to the breeding and production of millions of hoppers, particularly following a cyclone in the region in December 2019. If not controlled this could continue until June 2020 and lead to 500 times more locusts than at present. Swarms of up to 60km by 40km have already spread to Kenya and Somalia and there is a high risk of migration to neighbouring countries (South Sudan and Uganda), which could rapidly lead to a regional crisis.

The desert locust invasion places additional pressure on the livelihoods of those in affected communities in southern and southeastern areas of the country, including the regions of Oromia, Somali, and Southern Nations, Nationalities, and People (SNNP). Drought-like conditions due to poor rains have led to abnormal livestock migration patterns, outbreaks of opportunistic diseases, extreme emaciation and high mortality rates in these regions, where the dominant livelihood is pastoralism. Dependent entirely on livestock for their food and income, pastoralists are struggling with extremely low milk production, plummeting livestock prices and rising staple food costs.

Although average to above-average rainfall is forecast for the October–December 2019 season in southeastern pastoral areas, desert locusts are likely to disrupt pasture regeneration and growth and undermine the recovery of pastoral communities. The latest Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) analysis released in November reports that despite ongoing assistance, an estimated 6.7 million people are currently severely food insecure (IPC Phase 3 [Crisis] or above) in Ethiopia. This is due primarily to below-average seasonal production, conflict and climate-induced displacement, high food prices, and a long dry spell in northeastern pastoral areas.

Between February and June 2020, harvests from the Meher season will likely be insufficient to sustain households through the lean season, while high food prices will also affect pastoral communities who are typically dependent on markets for food during this period. About 8.5 million people are therefore projected to be in Crisis or worse from February – an increase of almost 2 million people. Livelihood needs are therefore expected to rise even further and food insecurity and malnutrition rates to be exacerbated. Despite considerable investments in the sector, committed funding is only able to cover a fraction of national agricultural needs.

Livelihood crisis

More than 80 percent of people in Ethiopia rely on agriculture and livestock for their livelihoods. Yet the increasing frequency and magnitude of climate disasters and plant pests over the years have left many communities particularly vulnerable to food insecurity. Consecutive seasons of poor rainfall in southern and southeastern pastoral areas have severely limited feed and water availability. Significant livestock losses have driven rising food insecurity and malnutrition rates, which are largely a consequence of insufficient and underfunded livelihoods response.

Moreover, the recent desert locust invasion risks leading to a considerable drop in agricultural production, adding further stress to an already fragile livelihood and food security situation.

On the other hand, displacement in drought-prone areas has significantly increased due to massive livestock losses, leaving the most vulnerable in the region with no tools to recover and dependent on humanitarian aid to survive. There is an urgent need to provide not only food assistance but also livelihood support and protection for pastoralists, assisting them to replace herds or gain access to alternative livelihood options.

FAO's response

FAO is working with the Government of Ethiopia, the Desert Locust Control Organization for Eastern Africa and other partners to raise awareness on the desert locust invasion, mobilize resources and monitor and respond to the threat. FAO operates a Desert Locust Information Service that receives and analyses data from locust-prone countries such as Ethiopia to assess the current locust situation. It also provides forecasts and issues warnings and alerts to keep the global community informed of locust developments and threats. As of January 2020, ground and aerial control operations are in progress in Ethiopia, with over 8 000 ha treated and more than 21 000 ha controlled in 56 breeding woredas so far.

The FAO Emergency Livelihood Response Plan in Ethiopia aims to assist 3 million vulnerable pastoral, agro pastoral, and smallholder farming households in 2019. To achieve this, FAO has prioritized livestock production support to save livelihoods, protect productive assets and enhance the resilience of affected communities. FAO is distributing survival feed to help protect livestock, as well as multinutrient blocks to improve animals’ body conditions and boost the resilience of livestock producing cooperatives.

Emergency animal health campaigns are being carried out and FAO is providing the most vulnerable pastoral households with unconditional cash transfers to enable them to purchase the goods and services they need most. FAO is also supporting the Government to control the fall armyworm plant pest by carrying out surveillance and monitoring activities to avoid massive crop losses.

As co-lead of the Agriculture Cluster, FAO provides support to the coordination of humanitarian action in the agriculture sector, assisting stakeholders, building consensus for an improved response, filling gaps when needed and mainstreaming the importance of livelihood protection. FAO is also working closely with the Government to conduct seasonal assessments and develop preparedness and response plans, along with guidelines for emergency agricultural support.

When diseases jump from animals to humans they can spread around the world in a matter of hours or days, posing a threat to global health security. FAO is working to reduce the impact of animal diseases on lives and livelihoods and helping to stop the emergence and spread of potential pandemics at the source.

Controlling transboundary animal diseases

FAO animal health is building capacity to prevent, detect and respond to disease threats. Activities are implemented by FAO’s Emergency Centre for Transboundary Animal Diseases (ECTAD) in Ethiopia and 34 other countries. Many communities rely on animals for their livelihoods as well as their food security and nutrition. When diseases jump from animals to humans they can spread around the world in a matter of hours or days, posing a threat to global health security. FAO is working to reduce the impact of animal diseases on lives and livelihoods, and helping to stop emergence and spread of potential pandemics at source.


More about the country

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 - The Government of Ethiopia with the support of FAO is mounting a large scale campaign to contain the damage caused by massive infestations of the desert locust which more
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 - Targeted households to benefit from livestock feed, crop seeds, and cash transfers FAO has launched a programme to safeguard and restore livelihoods of pastoral, agro-pastoral, and farming more
 -  The current desert locust situation remains extremely alarming as more swarms form and mature in southern Ethiopia (Oromia and Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples' Region (SNNPR)) and disperse more
 - An estimated one million people in Ethiopia are in need of emergency food assistance due to the ongoing desert locust invasion, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations more
 - Areas affected by the desert locust crisis in the Greater Horn of Africa according to the data from the latest FAO Desert Locust bulletin.