Taking anticipatory action to protect livelihoods and food security in desert locust-affected communities

Post date Friday, 1 May, 2020 - 12:55

(Source FAO)

In recent weeks we have highlighted our ongoing support of government-led efforts to control the desert locust upsurge – as illustrated in the FAO desert locust information dashboard. Alongside these measures, the Organization is working to protect livelihoods and promote early recovery of those living in regions impacted by the migratory pest in the Greater Horn of Africa, the Near East and North Africa. 

Desert locusts pose a very high risk to rural food security and livelihoods in 2020. We should act now to anticipate and reduce their likely impacts and avoid or respond to their more costly consequences. In the Greater Horn of Africa, Sudan and Yemen, almost 40 million people are projected to experience acute food insecurity in the coming months (according to Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) analyses that were conducted pre-COVID-19).

A recent joint assessment on the impact of desert locust on food security and livelihoods in Ethiopia – carried out by the Government of Ethiopia, FAO, the World Food Programme (WFP) and non-governmental organizations – found that the ongoing desert locust invasion has damaged about 200 000 hectares of cropland, more than 1.3 million hectares of pasture and grazing land, and caused a cereal loss of over 356 000 metric tons – affecting more than 800 000 farming households. As a result, an estimated one million people in Ethiopia are in need of emergency food assistance due to the invasion.

FAO's preliminary analysis and projection anticipates that, thanks to the control operations conducted over 363 000 hectares to date in the ten countries under the Organization’s appeal, approximately 720 000 tonnes of cereal have already been saved (in averted losses from off-seasons and main seasons 2020), worth USD 220 million. However, the continued widespread damage to crop and pastureland by desert locust, as highlighted by the impact assessment in Ethiopia, could have catastrophic impacts on the livelihoods and food security of millions across the region. 

Agricultural calendar in the Horn of Africa compared with desert locust lifecycle

Recognizing the clear need for anticipatory action to safeguard agriculture-based livelihoods and food security, FAO is working to provide affected growers with farming packages, veterinary care for vegetation-starved livestock and cash for families who have lost their crops to enable them to purchase food. The Organization has targeted more than 180 000 households for rapid livelihoods protection – such as farming inputs and supplementary feed – in nine of the countries included under its appeal.

Thanks to the support of our partners*, FAO is helping to maintain government-led control efforts in the desert locust-affected countries. However, more funding is needed to ensure farmers have the inputs they need to cultivate and herders the means to keep their livestock nourished during these difficult times. At present, there is a funding gap of USD 38 million for the livelihoods and early recovery component of FAO’s appeal. Supporting agriculture-based livelihoods now will mean the difference between food protection this season and hunger for families at risk.  

* Abu Dhabi Agriculture and Food Safety Authority, Africa Solidarity Trust Fund, African Development Bank, Belgium, Canada, CERF, China, Denmark, European Union, France, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Germany, Italy, Mastercard Foundation, Norway, Netherlands, OCHA, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, United States of America

Dominique Burgeon (Mr)
Director, Emergency and Resilience Division
Strategic Programme Leader - Resilience
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations