Asia, the Middle East and Africa are in a battle with an entity that threatens the food security of 10% of the population. This problem has come and gone before and goes by the name of the desert locust. These locusts fly in swarms of 10s of billions, in coverage ranging from a square third of a mile to 100 square miles. For reference, a swarm the size of one-third of a square mile could eat the equivalent of 35,000 people.
The leading cause of the sudden outburst of locusts is the months of heavy rain that Africa and Southwest Asia had towards the end of 2019. Locusts thrive in wet conditions when breeding and the rain sparked a massive emergence of the bugs.
The locusts could become the cause of food insecurity for millions of people. The reason for this is the sheer number of insects and also how quickly they can travel. They swarm from one food supply to the next, while moving from one country to the next within days. When they decide to land in a town or city that seems to have an abundance of crops, they will eat anywhere from 50 to 80% of all the plants. This has resulted in many countries and international institutions increasing cooperation, as the locusts do not discriminate against which country they deplete of resources. Below are five of the ways that collaboration has developed in the fight against locusts, which highlights the importance of working together during national emergencies.
5 Cases of International Cooperation in the Fight Against Locusts
- The World Bank has put together a $500 million program called The Emergency Locust Response Program to immediately assist farmers in the Middle East and Africa. This will help the citizens of affected countries with cash transfers, and will also go towards investing in agricultural industries. The first four countries that will receive the aid are Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda. They will collectively receive $160 million of the $500 million total.
- The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has paired with the United Nations to strengthen technology that tracks locust swarms. The administration typically helps track weather and other changes in the environment, but now will use its resources to help monitor the locusts. It is trying to re-purpose technology to track smoke in order to follow the migration of locusts. This will help prepare countries and cities better, as they will have a more accurate prediction of when the swarms will reach them. These institutions are also developing different types of bio-pesticides, which will have less of an impact on humans and crops.
- India has offered a detailed plan to Pakistan and Iran to team up against the swarms effectively. Pakistan has yet to accept the deal, but if accepted, the countries would “coordinate locust control operations along the border and that India can facilitate the supply of malathion, a pesticide, to Pakistan.” The plan originated in hopes of trying to save some of the estimated $3 billion of lost crops within the affected regions.
- The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has contributed $19 million to the FAO to fight the locusts in East Africa. The money will go to Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia, which are three of the worst-hit countries. The aid will help these countries afford airplanes to perform aerial spraying and training for infestation fighters on the ground.
- The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has committed another $10 million to the FAO. This money will go towards the same countries as the USAID contribution went to. The countries have gratefully accepted the money, yet still need more support. However, contributions from organizations like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation are closing the gap between necessary resources and obtained resources.
The cooperation between organizations and countries in the fight against locusts proves to be the silver lining of the infestation. International institutions are effectively planning, tracking and coordinating efforts to minimize the problem for farmers and food-insecure people around the world.
– Aiden Farr