Ineffective bio-pesticides that are being used in neighboring countries are challenging Ethiopia’s effort to control the desert locust invasion which hit five regions so far, The Reporter has learnt.
Speaking to The Reporter on the desert locust prevention activities in Ethiopia, Belayneh Negussie, crop protection director at the Ministry of Agriculture, said that neighboring countries especially Somalia, Somaliland and Djibouti are employing bio-pesticides that are not killing the locusts.
According to him, Ethiopia does not use bio-pesticides as they do not kill mature pests. Ethiopia uses a high concentration, non-diluted pesticide called ultra-low-volume chemical to spray on areas of infestation.
Bio-pesticides are environmentally friendly chemicals, Belayneh explained, and these chemicals cannot prevent an upsurge of locusts. They can only kill locusts at their early stages of development. Hence, it either kills a small amount or none of the fully grown pests.
With Djibouti and Somalia using these pesticides, the locusts are not dying and are migrating to Ethiopia. This has put pressure on the country, forcing it to spray more pesticide to prevent the upsurge of the locusts. However, if these pesticides are used at the upsurge level of the locust invasion, it would make the prevention efforts useless.
The desert locust invasion happened in June 2019. Since then, the country has witnessed a locust invasion unseen in the past, covering a vast area in the country. The current stage of the invasion is on an upsurge, covering a large area, and in various countries.
Out of the 10 regions in the country, locust infestations were seen in Tigray, Amhara, Afar, Somali, South, and Oromia regions. The locusts have three breeding seasons in Ethiopia. The first one is summer, covering places in Amhara, Tigray, and Afar regions. Winter breeding happens in the Eastern part of the country, in the Somali and some parts of the Southern region. Spring breeding is linked to the Dire Dawa and Southern Omo areas.
The locusts reproduce in mobility according to these seasons. The distribution depends on rainfall which occurs from October to January in the country.
According to Belayneh, currently, they are employing 13 anti-locust aircrafts in addition to trucks mounted with sprays. We are also using manpower to spray pesticides. “What we are doing is maintain the locust before it enters crop-producing areas. I can assure you that it has never been beyond our capacity or prevention. But it is expanding to various parts of the country. Afar region was not affected in the past but winter breeding has brought the locust there. This shows that the locust’s movement is changing its behavior reaching newer places.”
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) Locust Watch report released on January 26, 2021, in Ethiopia, immature swarms have moved into Afar and Eastern Amhara regions while other immature swarms continue to be present and are spreading out in parts of Oromia and SNNP regions.
Immature swarms persist South of Jigjiga and a few remain in parts of the Eastern Somali region where it is drying out. There is a risk that a few swarms could continue to move from Afar into Amhara and Tigray and perhaps reach the Red Sea coast of Eritrea and Saudi Arabia. Swarms will mature shortly and start laying eggs mainly in Oromia and SNNP.
FAO indicated that about one million individuals in Ethiopia have been affected by the Desert Locust invasion and require emergency food assistance. Of these, about 390,000 are in Somali, 360,000 in Oromia and Dire Dawa city (combined), 100,000 in Afar, 72,000 in Amhara, 43,000 in Tigray and 13,000 in SNNP regions.
In an assessment FAO made in concert with the Government of Ethiopia and other United Nations agencies and Non-Governmental organizations, it was found that the desert Locusts damaged about 200,000 hectares of cropland and caused a cereal loss of over 356,000 MT. Sorghum was the most affected cereal with 114,000 hectares damaged, followed by maize at 41,000 hectares and wheat at 36,000 hectares. Oromia region was worst affected with a total cereal loss of 123,000 MT, followed by the Somali region at 100,000 MT while the Tigray region recorded 84,000 MT cereal loss.
These affected areas are receiving about 15 kilos of wheat along with other food and non-food items, to help them cope with the damages inflicted following the infestation.