World in much better place to fight desert locust scourge UNs FAO
It's been described as a biological time bomb the worst upsurge in decades this time last year. Swans of desert locusts started to spread across countries in the horn of africa devastating crops and people's livelihoods. Fa yours emergency campaign appealed for urgent action to avoid a looming locust plague and humanitarian crisis. Now one year on. I'll we winning the fight. I put that question to senior locust. Forecasting officer keith pressman case when we spoke a year ago or it was just as the desert locust swarms with starting to invade the horn of africa. Could you briefly sum up the events of the last you well. A lot has happened in the past year. The last time we spoke a year ago swarms or just invading kenya in the horn of africa. They're spreading through other countries in the region. And since that time now there has been several generations a breeding. So what that means is that the locust numbers had just increased further and this is mainly due to exceptionally good weather. Conditions for the locus. The the problem did not remain only in the horn of africa but last summer there is a very important threat to west africa. Fortunately that did not occur but there was an additional extension of the current upsurge in southwest asia so in countries like iran pakistan and india. Fortunately the end of the summer. I very intensive efforts of those countries. The app surge was brought under control there but it still remains in the greater horn of africa. So that means them. Kenya's mali ethiopia dan and yemen. And that's that's what we're facing now again this year. And it's very interesting because you know when we last spoke a year ago. I mentioned swarms invading kenya. Well that's what they're doing again now and they started invading kenya from the north from eastern ethiopia from central somalia. I'm just before christmas and this was predicted so similarly to what happened last year again is not a surprise. We were expecting this and are we in a better position now. Are we better place to fight the desert lucasville. Much much better. You know last year at this time. We're in a very very precarious situation. We had you know. Huge numbers of locust swarms had developed and were moving in invading countries. That had not seen logos for seventy years. You know such as kenya other countries. That was a worse situation and more than a quarter of a century. They just simply were not prepared to respond to such a large scale invasion. They weren't trained. They had no resources. I'm no vehicles no spray equipment. No pesticides no aircraft. You know no logisticians. You know all of the elements components that you need in order to invoke control campaign so we were really. Let's say trying to catch up very quickly. We had no funding you know. Let's say desperate collectively desperate. I should say and the country's nfl. We're obviously we're scrambling doing the best. We could have that time but it was not enough we had to really really upscale and that's what's been achieved so now here we are in january twenty twenty one. It means we have everything in place. Yes we do have shortages of funding to keep those operations going in. This is extremely critical. But at least we're not at the stage of having to look for aircraft or having having to order equipment from abroad and wait for it to be delivered. All of the countries have those Elements in place. The faa ledge. Emergency response has seen incredible. International support including the mobilization of funds to tackle the small towns and prevent a humanitarian crisis always succeeding in the fight against desert. Lucas that show. We are succeeding. Yes if we had not been what we've been doing for the past year we would have seen a play by now. You know swarms from west africa to india from the equator to the mediterranean. We don't see that so. I think that that's confirmation that we are succeeding. We have probably less locust swarms than we did a year ago. A doesn't mean that you know we can sit back and relax but you know. There's a lot of work to do but i think the response as you mentioned from the international community has been exceptionally good globally. A more than two point. Eight million hectares retreated and twenty twenty. And that's an extraordinary achievement. These efforts of course they've saved enormous amounts of crop production an estimated two point seven million tons of crops or save last year. That's enough you know to feed eighteen million people for an entire year. The cost of that That was saved is something around eight hundred million dollars and you put that into balance with you. Know what did it costs to save that production we received last year. One hundred and ninety four million dollars so with that investment were able to save you know eight hundred million dollars or the food in additional able to to protect and safeguard one point two million households their livelihood. It's so you know our desert. Locusts extremely devastating. Obviously the response in the pasture has been exceptionally good. And of course you have to remember. We're competing against other emergencies. Such as covid nineteen indeed twenty twenty was a particularly challenging year. What can we expect for the will. The current upsurge continuing the problem. Is that the weather. Continues to favor the locus and you know. In the past locus upsurges lukas plagues they collapse because of two factors on because of the human intervention. You know the control operations everything that. We're trying to do to reduce locus numbers and a failure in the weather at and so far we're saying the former i'm we see those upskilled control operations working very well. I mean more than twenty one aircraft or an operation in eastern africa. But we haven't seen the break in the weather. We had again an extraordinary event last month in the horn of africa. Right exactly where the locust were we had a cyclone in december. Cyclones don't occur in the horn of africa december. But this is the second year in a row where we've had that so until we see you know kind of a break in the weather. And what does that mean. It means a failure of seasonal rains essentially or very unusually cold temperatures or strange wins that might carry all the locus into the ocean and where they would paris but until we see that we still have the challenge to to manage. This locus upsurge and try to to reduce impacts on food security and people's livelihood so for this year twenty twenty one and basically from now until summertime. We need eighty million dollars and the majority of this would be spent on maintaining those essential control operations by air and by ground as well as protecting the livelihoods. That was cave craftsman. Faa's seniors locust forrcasting.