Numerous and very large swarms pose an unprecedented threat to food security and livelihoods in Horn of Africa
(Relief Web) — In the Horn of Africa, there has been a significant and extremely dangerous increase in swarm activity during the past week in Kenya where numerous, large immature swarms are spreading from the initial invasion areas of the northeast (Mandera county) south to Wajir and Garissa, west along the Ethiopian border (Moyale and Marsabit counties) and southwest into central areas north of Mt Kenya (Isiolo, Samburu, Meru and most recently Laikipia counties). One immature swarm was 60 km long by 40 km wide in the northeast. More swarms are expected to occur in these areas, some of which are already moving north of Mt. Kenya westwards to the Rift Valley (Baringo county) where they could continue northwest to Turkana county, while others will move west along the Ethiopian border, and some swarms could move further south to Tana River county. Some swarms may reach northeast Uganda and southeast South Sudan. In all areas, there is an unprecedented threat to food security and livelihoods. In the northeast, some swarms have started to mature, which means that egg-laying could be imminent in open areas of sandy moist soil where eggs would hatch after about two weeks and give rise to numerous hopper bands in February.
In Ethiopia, immature swarms continue to form and move in the eastern regions of Harar (East Harerghe) and Somali (Jijjiga and Warder, Kebridehar, Gode in the Ogaden). Immature swarms are also present further south in Oromiya (Bale) and in the past days on the edge of the Rift Valley (Borena) near Teltele and Yabello. Some swarms have started to mature in the Gode area. More swarms are expected to appear in the southern parts of Oromiya and Somali regions and in the southwest region of SNNPR (South Omo) where they are likely to mature and lay eggs.
In Somalia, mature swarms are present in the Garbahare area near Mandera, Kenya.
Limited ground and aerial control operations are in progress in Ethiopia where 3 700 ha have been treated so far in January, and by DLCO-EA, national and county agencies and the private sector in parts of Kenya. So far, survey and control operations have not been mounted in central and southern Somalia due to insecurity. Aerial control efforts need to be urgently and very quickly upscaled in all countries.
In southwest Asia, swarms continue to be present on both sides of the Indo-Pakistan border but numbers are declining due to control operations and migration to the southern Iran where swarms that already reach the southeast have matured and laid eggs. In the past few days, unusually heavy rains fell in southeast Iran, causing flooding and loss of life. On the southeast coast near Chabahar, more rain fell in a day and half than what normally falls during the entire year. Once floodwaters recede, ecological conditions will be favourable for several months of breeding that is expected to cause a significant increase in locusts by spring.
Important breeding continues in the winter breeding areas along the coastal plains of the Red Sea where control operations are in progress against hopper groups, bands and adult groups in Saudi Arabia (8 000 ha), Eritrea (3 500 ha), Sudan (1 800 ha) and Yemen (1 080 ha).