By: Bamidele Fashube
The United Kingdom(UK) has announced a support of £18million to support the fight against locust invasion in Africa and Asia.
The sum is aimed at supporting communities affected by the unprecedented locust outbreaks across Africa and Asia.
It said this was in support of the FAO’s emergency appeal to help control the increase of locusts across East Africa, Yemen and South West Asia, as well as reduce the risk of swarms spreading into the Sahel.
The International Development Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan made the disclosure during a visit to British company Micron Group, Isle of Wight which supplies pesticide sprayers to the FAO.
According to her, the impact of the plague across Africa and Asia has been made worse by the coronavirus, with vulnerable communities facing dwindling food supplies alongside the pandemic.
She said the FAO is using Micron Group’s pesticide sprayers across Africa and Asia because it is capable of covering large areas with pesticide, especially as the swarms of insects can cover areas up to 100 square miles or more.
She disclosed that the FAO had since January, successfully controlled over 600,000 hectares of land, saved 1.2m tons crops with a value of $372 million and eradicated over 400 million locusts in 10 countries in East Africa.
She said: “Vulnerable communities are on the brink of starvation because of the biggest locust outbreak in decades, made worse by the coronavirus pandemic.
“British expertise is playing an important role in equipping companies with the right tools to combat the swarms and track where they will go next.
“But unless other countries also step up and act now, this crisis will spread and cause even more devastation.”
She added that the new funding followed an additional £8 million provided by the UK earlier in 2020 to the FAO appeal, to support Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia, Sudan, South Sudan, Eritrea, Djibouti, Tanzania and Pakistan.
“A supercomputer funded by UK aid is also helping countries in East Africa to track the insects’ movements around the continent,”she said.
Chargé d’affaires, British High Commission, Abuja, John Primrose expressed delight over the development noting that out of the sum, £5million is earmarked for the Sahel and West Africa regions.
He noted that the two benefitting countries “ face a number of challenges, but increasing levels of hunger in North East Nigeria is of particular concern to us. Following more than a decade of conflict and now the indirect impact of Covid-19, there are 4.3 million people in crisis or emergency levels of food insecurity in the BAY states.”
Meanwhile, in a breakdown of the sum £11million was set aside for the Greater Horn of Africa and Yemen, to contain the spread of locusts through monitoring, surveillance and spraying activities
£5million for the Sahel and West Africa to increase regional preparedness and coordination with early intervention
£1million for Southwest Asia to focus on technical assistance and coordination in the countries with the resources to lead the response themselves.
While an additional funding of up to £1m will go towards ACES (African Crop Epidemiological Systems), a consortium which includes the Centre for Agriculture and Bioscience International, CGIAR’s International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre, Scriptoria and the University of Cambridge, to establish tools, technologies and partnerships needed for effective pest surveillance, early warning and response functions in plant health management in Sub-Saharan Africa.