FAO Regional Office for Africa

Calling for Coordinated Actions towards the Sustainable Management of the Desert Locust

FAO Desert Locust Control Committee holds 41ST session to curb impacts of the locust on food security

Mohamed Omar from the Ministry of Agriculture holds an adult Desert Locust, in Aisha Ade Salal region, Somaliland. ©FAO/Isak Amin

19 December, 2019, Addis Ababa - Following the invasion of Desert Locust swarms earlier this year in Eastern Africa that has now become an urgent crisis, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) Desert Locust Control Committee (DLCC) held its 41st Session Meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, from 11 to 13 December 2019. 

The meeting deliberated on the invasion of Desert Locust swarms in different regions and identified priority areas for collaboration and better sustainable management of Desert Locust.

In opening remarks, Hon. Sani Redi, state minister for agriculture of the Federal Republic of Ethiopia pointed out that the current situation of locust in Ethiopia was very serious, with its invasion reported and detected in five administrative regions and one town administration. “The 41st session DLCC meeting is held at a time when we are experiencing serious threats from the Desert Locust.” He further added “the international meeting can help in putting together the way forward on how we can beef up our efforts to prevent cyclical multiplication of the Desert Locust in trillions and cause economic damage to locust prone countries including Ethiopia”

On behalf of the FAO Director-General, Fatouma Seid, FAO Representative to Ethiopia, observed that the 41st Session of the DLCC had an added importance this year because it coincided with the most serious Desert Locust situation that the region had faced in the past 25 years. Seid added, “The current Desert Locust situation has exposed the capacity challenges of the countries in the region which need to be enhanced from the current levels in order to manage and control future threats from Desert Locust without causing serious economic damage at the micro- and macroeconomic levels. This is because Desert Locust control is like fighting a war – it relies on precise information, good preparation, organization, and implementation with sufficient resources and coordination.” 

Preventing locust plagues is invaluable in order to save crops, livestock, and money. Early warning, early response, and cross-border collaboration are critical elements of this strategy that has been adopted by all DLCC member countries. The meeting recommended the establishment of a semi-or autonomous national locust control units (NCLU) with well-trained staff and resources within the ministries of agriculture. 

Seid confirmed FAO’s commitment to put in place a sustainable control mechanism for the Desert Locust. “I would like to reaffirm the strong commitment of FAO to support all affected countries by providing precise and timely early warning and forecasts, through the Desert Locust Information Service at Headquarters, and by strengthening national capacities, through its three regional locust commissions.“ She added.  

FAO experts, representatives from the three regional locust commissions of the Western Region, Central Region, and Eastern Regions attended the meeting. In addition, member country representatives and actors working on Desert Locust control also participated.

FAO’s recent update states that in the Horn of Africa, swarms have formed in Ethiopia and moved northwards, reaching the Red Sea coast of Eritrea where breeding was underway and at least one swarm crossed the Red Sea to Saudi Arabia. Other swarms in Ethiopia moved east towards the Ogaden, supplemented by additional swarms from adjacent areas of northern Somalia where hopper bands formed. More swarms are expected to form and move to Djibouti, the Ogaden, southern Somalia and perhaps northeast Kenya. The situation is anticipated to get more serious in the next six months considering the prevailing weather conditions in the region.

The 41st session called for urgent collaborative and coordinated actions amongst the various actors to attain sustainable management of the Desert Locust and reduce its impacts on the livelihoods and food and nutrition security in the affected areas, and to prevent future infestations. With a total of 26 recommendations and action points, the meeting participants agreed to put in place robust preventive and early warning systems to avert the threat of Desert Locust to growing economies. 

Key recommendations focused on the need to coordinate and scale up current survey and control operations in Ethiopia and Somalia in order to avert significant impacts on food security and people’s livelihoods in the region and to establish a sustainable mechanism to manage future Desert Locust outbreaks that are expected to become more frequent due to climate change.

About the FAO Desert Locust Control Committee (DLCC)

The FAO Desert Locust Control Committee (DLCC) is the primary forum that brings together locust-affected countries, donors and other agencies to discuss Desert Locust management under the FAO umbrella. A global advisory body on Desert Locust early warning, monitoring, control, and emergency preparedness, the DLCC provides guidance to member countries. The committee was established in 1955 to support member countries’ monitoring and control efforts and has been carrying out biennial sessions for the past 65 years.