locust plaguesDuring the past several years, Eastern Africa has experienced the worst swarms the region has seen in decades. Typically, the arid desert environment kills off locusts but multiple tropical cyclones have hit the region thereby creating wetter soil conditions that are more hospitable for these insects. Due to the weather patterns within the last few years, several overwhelming locust plagues have occurred. Not only are the swarms of locusts unsettling and bothersome, but they threaten food security and the livelihoods of the people within the affected regions.

The Impact of Locust Plagues

One of the most troubling effects of the locust swarms is their consumption of green vegetation, in particular, crops within agricultural regions and pastoral communities. In a single day, a swarm of locusts that covers one square kilometer can consume more food than 35,000 people would in the same time frame. In a region already affected by food insecurity, the locust outbreak only exacerbates the problem and could potentially lead to five million people in Africa facing starvation.

In order to fight locusts, governments often resort to aerial or on-the-ground pesticide spraying. While The Desert Locust Control Organization for Eastern Africa exists specifically to take these actions, there are many obstacles in the way.

  • The organization is underfunded and disregarded by many countries in the region.
  • Even with proper funding, finding and spraying all locust infested sites is challenging.
  • The effects of COVID-19 have left many governments under financial stress and unable to contribute to locust-fighting and food security efforts.
  • Political instability and civil unrest make accessing some locust breeding sites very difficult.

How the United States Can Help

Given the lack of resources of many East African countries and the additional impact of COVID-19 on these countries, it is necessary for developed countries like the United States to provide aid. Fortunately, a bipartisan bill aimed at doing just that is currently moving through the House of Representatives.

On June 18, 2020, Rep. Christopher Smith and Rep. Karen Bass introduced H.R. 7276, the East Africa Locust Eradication Act. This bill seeks to create an interagency working group that would form a thorough plan to eradicate current locust plagues as well as create an infrastructure to prevent future outbreaks. Should the bill pass, the interagency group would consist of members from the Department of Agriculture, the Agency for International Development (USAID), the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and more. Additionally, the interagency group would work with regional governments and international organizations in order to develop a comprehensive eradication and prevention plan for the entire affected region.

Action in Progress

Currently, regional governments and international nongovernmental organizations have taken a disjointed response to the outbreaks. For example, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) is working on the ground in the East African region to provide direct support to farmers and help some of the most vulnerable people survive. However, without a comprehensive, multilateral and international plan to address the locust outbreak, the IRC’s measures to support communities will be insufficient.

For this reason, it is essential that Congress pass the East Africa Locust Eradication Act. United States aid as well as aid from other developed countries is required in order to save millions of people from the effects of the worst locust plague the region has seen in decades.

Alanna Jaffee
Photo: Flickr

Hunger in Cambodia

In 2011 heavy rain caused one of the worst floods in the history of Cambodia. The severe weather inundated 70 percent of the country leaving a lasting impression that is still felt today. In addition to the sheer destruction of communities and loss of human life, one of the worst backlashes was the wiping away of fields of crops resulting in widespread malnutrition and hunger.

According to the World Food Programme (WFP), “Cambodia produces a surplus of paddy rice for export, household access to sufficient and nutritious food remains a serious challenge.” This problem directly correlates to the high level of poverty in the country. About 90 percent of the poor population in Cambodia live in rural areas. These individuals are the most affected by hunger.

Currently, two-thirds of the country’s 1.6 million rural households face seasonal food shortages each year. The practice of farming in Cambodia is traditional and with that comes along the problem that productivity is very low because it takes longer and it’s a more tedious practice of farming.

The numbers in regards to rates of malnutrition in Cambodia are extremely high, almost 40 percent of children under five are chronically malnourished and suffer from stunting. Within that 40 percent over 28 percent are underweight. Children aren’t the only ones suffering from malnutrition and hunger as one in every five women is underweight.

Although the fact and figures on hunger in Cambodia are alarming, aid is being provided. In December 2015, Action against Hunger with the help of Google launched Nutritional Resilience, a project that takes an integrated, multi-dimensional approach to implementing sustainable solutions to undernutrition.

The WFP is also helping by working with the Royal Government of Cambodia reaching over 1 million food-insecure people annually in the rural areas through its 2011-2016 Country Program which includes providing food-based safety nets in the sectors of education, nutrition and livelihoods.

Mariana Camacho

Photo: Flickr


The Government of Ghana will be expanding the Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty, or the LEAP program, which will provide cash grants to 216 districts in demand of basic needs.

The Government of Ghana has been focusing on poverty alleviation by accomplishing the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals. One of these goals included introducing the National Social Protection Strategy, (NSPS).

The NSPS works to achieve government objectives by providing protections to people living in extreme poverty, susceptibility and marginalization. There are three main components to the strategy, which include: a grant scheme which provides secure incomes to vulnerable households, social protection programs and complimentary inputs for those that currently receive benefits from social protection programs.

Sprouting the NSPS, the LEAP program has flourished. Developed in 2008, the LEAP program is a cash transfer program that works to enable those disadvantaged and vulnerable populations living in extreme poverty throughout Ghana.

The Government of Ghana projects that the LEAP program will reach 216 districts by the end of the year. Currently, the program resides in 186 districts.

Mr. Eugene Nuamah, the Operations Office of the Ministry of Gender and Children, spoke in the Eastern Region of Ghana. Mr. Nuamah explained that farmers were particularly affected by a recent fire disaster. The farmers received money to replenish their destroyed crops under the Emergency LEAP Cash Transfer program.

The goal o the Emergency LEAP Cash Transfer program is to provide necessary grants, which address the needs of affected households. Mr. Nuamah also advised farmers to take fire precautions to avoid future crop destructions.

The Ministry of Food and Agriculture additionally works towards ensuring that farmers receive crop seeds to replenish their harvests as soon as possible. Some of the most demanded seeds are cocoa and plantain.

Since its introduction in 2008, the LEAP program has expanded its beneficiary households from 1,654 to 250,000. By the end of the 2016, the program projects that it will reach 350,000 household enrollments throughout Ghana.

The households that will be selected to enroll as beneficiaries to the LEAP program will be determined by a nationwide monitoring exercise. This strategy has been used in the past, as research showed that local economies of LEAP communities were thriving. Children were attending school at a higher rate and more people had access to health care.

In addition, the LEAP program has been modernizing its program through the introduction of electronic payments. The Ghana Interbank Payment and Settlement System allows beneficiaries to use online payment platforms to ensure greater control over the management of grant funds.

LEAP beneficiaries will have the chance to enroll for online payments. They will be available in all LEAP districts to replace the manual system of transferring cash grants, increasing the efficiency and security of cash transfers.

The LEAP program is administered by the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection and managed by the Department of Social Welfare.

Kimber Kraus

Photo: Flickr

Approximately 300 people have died in the past month as a result of the deadly drought and heat wave in India. A large portion of the nation is undergoing extreme droughts and record-breaking temperatures, with the two hottest months of the year yet to ensue.

India is experiencing one of the worst water crisis it has had in years. A quarter of the population currently suffers from drought due to the failure of the past two monsoons to provide adequate water supply.

Armed guards now protect any water available from desperate farmers who constantly attempt to steal the valuable resource. As Purshotam Sirohi states, “water is more precious than gold in this area.”

Last month, authorities in India had to prohibit large gatherings at water collection sites in order to dispel the water riots. Gates were placed outside of water tankers and the police continually deal with skirmishes over the water supply.

For the past six to eight months, the poorer population has waited outside of water tankers overnight to fill up containers of water. After the water sites began to dry up, this extended to the rest of India as well.

To prevent the situation from worsening, authorities have begun to haul in trucks packed with water to provide for the citizens. However, this cannot alleviate the effect that the drought has on many citizens’ livelihood.

The farmers throughout India rely on the yearly monsoons to produce enough water to satisfy their crops, since the country lacks a highly functional irrigation system. Water shortages for the past two years have caused many farmers’ crops to dry up and the land to become far less arable for future seasons.

The drought and heat wave in India have eliminated many of the key resources that the country is largely dependent on. Those who live in the poorer areas of rural India have taken a significant hit from the rising temperatures and water crisis which has worsened the pre-existing social and economic conditions that these citizens suffer from.

A sizable portion of India’s population of poor rural workers is now migrating toward cities and populated towns to find water and to make up for their financial losses. Although many are able to find work in cities, migration leaves a lack of resources flowing from the rural areas which has a negative impact on the everyday functioning of the country.

However, this drought and heat wave in India has done more than eradicate the crops. The temperatures of over 113 degrees Fahrenheit have caused deaths across the nation. Schools have been forced to close as a result of dangerous conditions and outdoor activities have been temporarily stopped.

Though the citizens have felt the consequences of the extreme heat wave, the hottest months of May and June are still to ensue. There is hope on the horizon, though, as experts in India claim that the coming rainy season is expected to be significantly greater than those in the past.

Amanda Panella

Photo: Youtube

imageFAO Allocates Funding to Combat Locust Crop Destruction in Sudan
As though part of some biblical plague of the ancient world, the recent swarms of invading locusts have wreaked havoc on the crops of many North African countries. In an effort to both stem the flow of the relentless Lucusta migratoria and prevent future flare-ups, the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) has donated 1 million dollars to help fight the locust crop destruction in Sudan.

The funds, which resulted from joint cooperation of donors that included $400,000 from Saudi Arabia, $75,000 from the CRC’s emergency trust, and $500,000 from the FAO, will serve as a much needed shot in the arm in the ongoing war against the locust crop destruction in Sudan. The locusts, which began their migration back in February, initially did little damage to the Sudanese agricultural industry. However, the previous swarms laid eggs across much of the county, and like a ticking time bomb are expected to hatch risking further locust crop destruction in Sudan, which could decimate their spring and summer harvests.

The recent allocation of funds from the FAO is great news in the continuing effort of preventing further locust crop destruction in Sudan. Furthermore, through the combined funding of several generous donors, along with the agricultural expertise of the FAO, countries such as Sudan that have been dealing with the ravages of the locust swarms can now look forward to some much-needed relief.

– Brian Turner
Source African Brains
PhotoThe Desert Review