A donation of $10 million (about Ksh1 billion) has been provided to enhance the fight against the desert locust in East Africa. The shot in the arm in the arm for the region has come from the Mastercard Foundation through the Food and Agriculture Organisation.

The desert locust menace continues to be alarming, particularly in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia, where it threatens food security and livelihoods. In the six East African countries worst affected or at risk of locusts – Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Uganda and Tanzania – some 20.2 million people are already experiencing acute food insecurity.

“I thank Mastercard Foundation for its generous contribution as the desert locust threatens to provoke a humanitarian emergency,” FAO Director-General QU Dongyu said.

“It is crucial that we act hand in hand, scale up efforts to contain the locusts and protect the livelihoods of millions of farmers and their families.” 

Mastercard Foundation said its contribution over the next 12 months was meant to assist FAO with the early detection of locust swarms, ground and aerial spraying operations, and impact assessments that would promote a sustainable and responsible locust campaign. It will focus on an area spanning 50,000 hectares across six affected countries: Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and Uganda.

Mastercard Foundation President and CEO Reeta Roy said: “It’s clear that the desert locust infestation poses an unprecedented threat to the affected communities, and particularly to the economic livelihoods of smallholder farmers.”

East Africa Situation

According to FAO’s Locust Watch, the situation in East Africa is extremely alarming, with new swarms expected to mature soon in northern and central Kenya, southern Ethiopia and probably in Somalia, too. Most of the swarms will remain for another generation of breeding and further increase locust numbers while a few could move from Kenya to South Sudan and Uganda.  Locust swarms are also forming in Iran and Yemen, following widespread rains.

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FAO recently scaled up its Desert Locust appeal to $153.2 million. So far, $114.4 million has been pledged or received.  The UN agency is continuing its efforts to contain the upsurge despite restrictions on the movement of personnel and equipment resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic.

The agency is already helping governments and other partners with monitoring and surveillance and coordination during control operations. It is also preparing action to protect rural livelihoods by providing affected growers with farming packages, veterinary care, and cash for families that have lost their crops to purchase food.

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