According to climate experts, Climate change is likely to be the cause of the current locust invasion in East Africa. This plague in the Horn of Africa has devastating effects, including destroying crops, destroying pasture, and exercabating the hunger crisis. This comes as a blow to some African countries that were already in a hunger crisis. This is due to floods and drought that occurred a few years back.
This swarm of locust seems to be breeding rapidly. It is estimated that by June, this swarm will have grown 500 times, and extended into further into Sudan, Uganda, and other parts of Eastern and Central Africa.
What’s the Nature of the Locust Invasion?
Locusts are quite small insects, about the size of a man’s finger. However, locusts can come together and form a large swarm that resembles a dark cloud when seen from far. A swarm of locusts is capable of destroying vegetation over a vast area. According to IGAD, a swarm of locusts can contain up to 150 million locusts. And these locusts can destroy vegetation enough to feed more than 5000 people at a go. These locusts move pretty fast too. They can cover more than 100 kilometers per day. This explains why they may destroy more than a quarter of East Africa by June 2020.
What’s worse is that there’s no specific method of fighting these insects. People try to send them away with hitting plastics, metal, shouting at them, but this doesn’t seem to be working. The various Governments are trying to spray them with pesticides, but this is taking too long.
The past three years have exhibited a change in the climatic patterns. It started with a prolonged drought, and then heavy rains followed in 2019. There have also been numerous cyclones that caused heavy rains in the desert of Oman. Hurricanes are some of the causes of the swarm formation. About ten cyclones occurred between 2018 and 2019. According to Matthew, a climate expert, oceans are warmer due to the global warming effect (A climate change phenomena). Warmer oceans lead to more cyclones. Cyclones are also a result of the “Indian Ocean Dipole.”
Warm temperatures also characterized the heavy rains. These two conditions facilitated the breeding of locusts. In most parts of East Africa, including Kenya, Somalis, and Ethiopia, heavy rains still wreak havoc. The month of January is always dry, but this time it rained for the most part. The green vegetation that results from this rain also attracts the locusts. Climate experts believe that the wind drives the insects, and this can help the responsible agencies to track where they will go next.
Which countries have been affected?
These swarms of locusts can extend to about 40km to 60 km. They have already devoured crops and pasture in Kenya, Uganda, Somalia, and South Sudan. Kenya hasn’t seen such a plague for about 70 years. Ethiopia, Somalia, and South Sudan seem to be more vulnerable since they haven’t healed from civil war and extremist attacks.
Efforts towards stopping the locust invasion
Governments are spraying these locusts with pesticides, but this doesn’t seem to be working since these locusts can cover up to 150 kilometers in a day. They are also breeding very fast. The UN is pleading with donors to raise about $70 Million to help the affected countries deal with this plague. These funds will also help the countries recover from this disaster. With the continued rains in most parts of East Africa, this invasion could continue up to June. More destruction will occur, and more losses incurred. Climate change is not a direct cause, but it seems to be facilitating the breeding and the migration of these swarms of locusts. More effective mitigation and adaptation measures need to be enhanced.