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‘Teeth of the wind’ is what locust swarms are also called in Africa. Teeth that, within seconds, remorselessly strip bare entire swathes of land. ‘We found huge swarms of locusts in bushes, on the fields, even in the forests’, says the Ethiopian small farmer and family man Amanuel Bure (50). ‘The insects left behind bare earth and millions of eggs. Now, the hatched hoppers feed on the newly sown crops. Everything was in vain, we will lose this harvest too.’
The huge swarms – often covering several hundred square kilometres – consist of hundreds of millions of insects and can move up to 150 kilometres per day. Wherever they land, not a blade of grass is left.
An incredibly difficult fight
For the last year and a half, East Africa has been confronted with a huge plague of locusts. The affected countries such as Ethiopia, South Sudan and Somaliland are making great efforts to stem the invasion. People try to drive the locusts away by using sticks, smoke and noise. The governments are using aircraft that spray whole swathes of land with pesticides. But the locust swarms grow rapidly. Their number can multiply by a factor of 20 within three months, and in favourable conditions, there can even be 8000 times as many locusts within nine months. During the dry season in the first half of 2021, the swarms could be somewhat decimated. But at the end of May 2021, growing numbers of immature swarms were once again detected in eastern Ethiopia. According to experts, the outbreak could last two to three years.
Harvests are wiped out
The effect on the livelihood of smallholder farmer and pastoralist families in the rural areas is dramatic. Harvests and large areas of pasture are completely destroyed in a short time. The smallholder farmer and pastoralist families in one of the poorest regions of the world had already been severely affected by the recurrent droughts of recent years. Now they have lost their entire harvest and the fodder for their animals, which are starving in increasing numbers. The situation is further aggravated by the Corona crisis as food prices rise and fighting the plague becomes more difficult. An acute famine is threatening.
In Ethiopia alone, a country in which the security situation has steadily deteriorated for some years, around eight and a half million people are already affected by acute food insecurity. On behalf of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations, Caritas is helping the hardest hit families in the south-east of the country. They receive feed supplements for their animals and good forage seeds. This helps sick animals recover faster, endangered animals stay in good physical condition and the animal population is protected. At the same time, there is more milk available for the families, especially the children. Caritas also trains local experts and small farming families in animal feeding and the development of animal feed. It uses training materials developed by the FAO specifically for his region.
With your donation, we can protect even more people from the consequences of the biggest locust plague in decades.