FAO-China SSC Programme launches first emergency project to support desert locust crisis control


15/06/2020 - 

June 15, 2020. The FAO-China South-South Cooperation (SSC) Programme has just approved its first emergency project on desert locust control, which was signed by China’s Vice-Minister of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs (MARA) Mr Zhang Taolin, and by the Deputy Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Ms Beth Bechdol. The project, with a budget of USD 2 million will be implemented in Africa and Asia, specifically in Ethiopia, Kenya, Pakistan, Uganda, and Iran.

This project aims to support FAO’s global action to control the worst desert locust outbreak in decades. The locust crisis is underway in the Greater Horn of Africa and Yemen, where tens of thousands of hectares of cropland and pasture have been damaged with potentially severe consequences for agriculture-based livelihoods in contexts where food security is already fragile. The current outbreak is also threatening Southwest Asian nations including India, Iran, and Pakistan, as well as the Red Sea area. Additionally, recent forecasts by the FAO have indicated a risk of locust invasion in West Africa from June 2020.

The situation is particularly serious, as forecasts from the recently released Global Report on Food Crises indicated that more than 25 million people will experience acute hunger in Eastern Africa in 2020, and an additional 17 million in Yemen. Moreover, the COVID-19 pandemic will likely further undermine food security.

On 21 May during a virtual briefing for FAO Members, regional organizations, partners, and other stakeholders, FAO Director-General, Qu Dongyu, emphasized that “The locusts, combined with the impacts of COVID-19, could have catastrophic consequences on livelihoods and food security.” 

In order to respond to this global challenge, and in line with FAO Director-General’s appeal for more international cooperation and financial resources to address this crisis, the FAO-China SSC Programme has innovated in its modalities of work and developed its first emergency and resilience-building project. This project has two main components: 1) to provide the most needed inputs for immediate response and sustainable control of the desert locust, and 2) capacity building of the host countries to operate the control and prevention measures to strengthen their resilience.

The project will offer different modalities of capacity building activities, which involves sharing Chinese experiences on desert locust surveillance and control technologies; providing grassroots level awareness-raising for farmers associations, including community sensitization and awareness-raising on control operations; and hands-on trainings for locust field officers provided by national Master Trainers.

As any project involving the procurement of inputs and movement of personnel in the field, COVID-19 represents a risk. To adapt and mitigate the risk, this project will also use remote control technologies, which records and transmits data in real-time via satellite to national locust centers and the Desert Locust Information Service (DLIS) based at FAO, as well as to rely on local capacity building trainings.