Somaliland and the Invasion of Locusts in East Africa

Locusts invasion in Somalia

Somalilandsun: They buzz loudly, are sticky and fly against your head: A German development worker describes how scary it is to get into a swarm of locusts. 

This is per the report below initially in German language by Christoph Link under title Ostafrika im Sturm der Insekten

Hargeisa – The government  of Somaliland in the Horn of Africa has invited to a crisis meeting on Sunday: The threat of locust swarms that have been roaming across East Africa and parts of Asia for weeks is on the agenda . The Somalis look to the horizon with concern as to whether a dark swarm in the sky is approaching. Thomas Hörz, a development worker in crisis countries around the world for 30 years, works in Hargeisa, the capital of Somaliland, and once stood in the middle of a locust swarm, that was in Afghanistan: “It is scary. You can’t open your eyes if you close them for fear of injury. The animals spray you on the head, they weigh around two grams, that’s about the weight of a one-cent piece. ”The animals fly uncoordinated, says Hörz, the wing beat and the chirping are uncomfortable.

Driving through a swarm by car is only possible at slow walking pace: “At speed 30, the animals burst like bangers on the windshield. Their bodies form a film of grease on the pane, which is so sticky that you can only remove it with petrol. ”Hörz’s employer, Welthungerhilfe, has formed a crisis team on the topic of grasshopper plague in East Africa. The swarms arrived in Somaliland when, fortunately, the harvest of sorghum and maize had already arrived, but there is great fear of their return. “They eat everything away within hours: pastures, the forage trees for camels and goats,” says Hörz. It looks like a deciduous forest in winter.

When the rainy season begins, the animals reproduce even better

Somalia has already declared a state of emergency because of the African locust, and distant Pakistan – also affected – also. Kenya and Ethiopia are also among the countries affected, and swarms are expected soon in Uganda and South Sudan. According to the food and agriculture organization FAO, flocks of around 200 billion grasshoppers are on the move. Wet weather favors the breeding of the insects .

If the rainy season begins again in March, the number of animals could increase 500-fold, according to the FAO. “That means a catastrophic turn,” says Thomas Hörz. Welthungerhilfe points out that eleven million people in the Horn of Africa are already dependent on food aid, and the number could quickly double.

In East Africa, the flocks of migratory locusts are a threat. Photo: dpa / Ben Curtis

Light aircraft in Kenya spray pesticides against the animals

A swarm the size of Luxembourg (2500 square kilometers) is on the move in Kenya, in one day the insects can eat up the food supply for 35,000 people in one square kilometer. Six light aircraft in Kenya spray pesticides against the animals – even with the blessings of the ecologists. “It is painful for us agroecologists to say this: But there is currently no other means than pesticides against the grasshoppers. We have no alternatives, ”says insect researcher Stefan Diener from the Swiss Biovision Foundation, which works on biological insect control agents, to our newspaper.

In Africa, people try to drive the animals away with the clatter of pot lids or they hit the bushes with clubs. In Afghanistan, Thomas Hörz observed that the farmers dig and burn the grasshoppers’ breeding grounds on the sandy, moist banks. He had not observed this method in Africa. In view of the huge swarm, insect researchers doubt servants whether local measures will work at all: “It is as if someone wanted to extinguish a forest fire with a garden hose. The individual farmer is practically powerless. “