SEATTLE, Washington — Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, several African and Middle Eastern countries have been infested with locust swarms. This infestation exacerbates food insecurity and endangers rural workers and farmers. The World Bank recently approved a $500 million program, the Emergency Locust Response Program (ELRP), to aid countries in this situation.
Here are some ways in which the ELRP will promote locust swarm relief in affected countries.
Locust Swarm Infestation
Concentrated in East Africa, swarms of locust have infiltrated crops, damaging farmers’ means of support and exacerbating food insecurity. These swarms were observed from late 2019 and have only gotten worse throughout 2020. Locusts reproduce and travel at alarming speeds, and increased rainfall in East Africa promoted a better environment for locusts to breed.
Efforts to restrain swarms through pesticides is extremely difficult because the pesticide needs to be sprayed onto the locust swarms directly in order to be effective. Farmers in Kenya and Ethiopia are especially affected, as the planting and harvesting seasons are severely hampered by locust swarms.
Emergency Locust Swarm Relief
On May 22, 2020, the World Bank released the ELRP program, providing $500 million to African and Middle Eastern countries affected by locust swarms. Due to the damage locust swarms have inflicted on crops, the ELRP will first emphasize aid to rural families and farmers.
This aid package is timely, as locust swarm infestations during COVID-19 present a “double crisis” for the affected countries. According to data from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, even before the increased presence of locust swarms, almost 23 million people were fighting food insecurity in East Africa, while nearly 11 million people living in the area are displaced internally.
Now, 23 countries spread across East Africa, the Middle East and South Asia are facing the invasion of locust swarms on top of existing food insecurity issues.
The ELRP adds upon previous World Bank funding for locust swarm relief and will release different phases of funding. Overall, this program aims to support farmers and families who are struggling to meet basic needs through cash transfers, resources to plant new crops and financing to promote better safeguards against locust swarms in the future.
Initially, the ELRP will focus on four African countries, with a total of $160 million in aid.
4 African Countries Aided by the ELRP
- In Djibouti, $6 million in funds will be allocated towards cash transfers and improving safeguards against future locust swarm infiltrations. This also includes support for institutions.
- In Ethiopia, $63 million in funds will improve monitoring systems to prevent damage by future locust swarms. Fertilizer and seeds will also be provided to over 150,000 farmers to boost agricultural productivity and over 113,000 pastoral households will receive fodder.
- In Kenya, $43 million in funds will improve monitoring systems against future locust swarms. Additionally, these funds will provide cash transfers to about 20,000 farmers and 70,000 families in pastoral regions to support the restoration of agricultural structures and crops.
- In Uganda, $48 million in funds will also improve monitoring systems against future locust swarms. Additionally, these funds will be used to boost employment opportunities for those who have lost livelihoods, such as involvement in conservation efforts.
The infiltration of locust swarms in African and Middle Eastern countries amid the COVID-19 pandemic severely affects farmers and families in rural areas. However, programs like the World Bank’s ELRP bring timely locust swarm relief and allocate funds to revive agricultural growth, improve farmers’ livelihoods and prevent future destruction by locust swarms.
As the various phases of the ELRP are put in place, farmers will find relief, and affected countries will be better situated to respond to the locust swarm crisis.
– Anita Durairaj
Photo: Wikimedia Commons