United States lawmakers have introduced legislation on desert locust outbreak in East Africa with a view to easing America’s humanitarian assistance to the regional economies.
The Desert Locust Control Bill sponsored by the US Representative for New Jersey Christopher Henry Smith has been forwarded to the House Committee for Foreign Affairs for further processing.
It seeks to combat food insecurity and avert potential economic and political instability in the affected countries in the region.
The Bill provides that the US President Joe Biden establishes an inter-agency working group to coordinate the United States’ response to desert locust outbreak in East Africa and other affected regions, including the development of a comprehensive, strategic plan to control the outbreak, mitigate the impacts on food security and political stability, and prevent future outbreaks.
The inter-agency working group shall be composed of two representatives from the United States Agency for International Development (Usaid), one representative each from the United Nations Agencies for Food and Agriculture (FAO), National Security Council, Department of State, Department of Defense, Department of Agriculture, and any other relevant Federal department or agency.
The president shall designate one of the representatives as chair of the interagency working group
“ It is the policy of the United States to prioritise efforts to control outbreak in East Africa and other affected regions, mitigate the impacts on food security, economic productivity and political stability, improve inter-agency coordination to prevent future outbreaks and promote resilience in affected countries,” the Bill states.
According to the findings of the US Congress, East African countries are currently suffering the worst desert locust outbreak in decades, which will devour crops and pasture and destroy local livelihoods across the region.
As of December, there were 42 million people experiencing food insecurity in East Africa — a figures projected to rise if the desert locusts is not controlled, according to FAO.
According to the US Congress, the desert locust outbreak in East Africa particularly in Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia is having a negative impact on food security, local livelihoods and economic productivity and may threaten political stability in the region.
“Proactive investments now to control the desert locust outbreak could reduce the need for a much larger United States humanitarian response effort later, as well as support economic and political stability in affected countries,” according to the Bill.
Desert locust infestations
According to FAO’s monthly bulletin for July 2021 desert locust infestations persist in the Horn of Africa, where intensive aerial control operations are continuing against immature swarms in northwest Somalia and, to a lesser extent, in northeast Ethiopia, where a few swarms are present along the eastern escarpment of the northern highlands in eastern Amhara and western Afar regions.
According to the report, effective survey and control operations in northern Somalia and eastern Ethiopia are key in reducing breeding that will occur in northeast Ethiopia in the coming months.
“This is even more important as rains have already started to fall in Afar and are expected to be above normal from now until September. This will allow the swarms to finish their maturation and lay eggs, which are expected to start to hatch in early August, giving rise to hopper bands that could eventually lead to the formation of new immature swarms from late September onwards,” the report says.
“Important infestations remain in the Horn of Africa while other regions are calm.”
According to FAO aerial control operations continue against immature swarms on the plateau in the northwest of Somalia and no locusts seen during surveys in the northeast (Puntland).
In Ethiopia, control operations are underway against earlier swarms that arrived and split up along the eastern escarpment of the Amhara highlands near Kombolcha.
FAO says current field operations should be up scaled in northeast Ethiopia and maintained in eastern Ethiopia, northern Somalia, Djibouti and Yemen.
In January, numerous swarms continued to invade Ethiopia and Kenya and a few to Tanzania.
However in April this year (2021) swarms ended in Kenya but rains in Ethiopia and Somalia provided fertile ground for swarms to mature.