Ethiopia Plagued By Worst Locust Swarms In 25 Years, Made Worse By COVID And Heavy Rains

Swarms of locusts are destroying fields of crops in Ethiopia, the worst invasion of the insects in 25 years. Some are questioning whether this is a sign of the end times.

For those left to feed and care for their families after losing their entire crop, it is.

“They never left for a week. We are left with an empty harvest, we tie our waist and cry day and night. How can (I) feed … my children like this,” Marima Wadisha told Reuters.

Swarms of locusts cover a field in Ethiopia.
Source: YouTube/Channel 4 News
Swarms of locusts cover a field in Ethiopia.

The widowed mother of ten relies on the sorghum crop as her only source of income, Reuters reports. Try as she may to stop them with rocks, even bullets, ravenous locusts have devoured nearly 500,000 acres of farmland in Ethiopia this year, leaving many with nothing to show for the harvest season.

Swarms of locusts are plaguing east Africa.
Source: Twitter FAO Locust
Swarms of locusts are plaguing east Africa.

COVID precautions have made the situation worse, as pesticides and equipment from the United Nations food agency FAO has been delayed

“The biggest challenge now in the region is here, in Ethiopia and we are working on that together with our partners like the FAO,” said the Desert Locust Control Organization’s Eastern Africa Director for Eastern Africa Stephen Njoka.

The locusts are devouring the livelihoods of many families.
Source: YouTube/Channel 4 News
The locusts are devouring the livelihoods of many families.

FAO’s Ethiopia representative Fatouma Seid is concerned the locusts will return in force next year. Conflicts in East Africa and Yemen, where some of the locusts originated, make it impossible to treat the swarms with pesticides by air. Heavy rains have meanwhile helped the locusts proliferate.

“Infestation will continue into 2021. We are being re-invaded and the swarms will then go to Kenya,” Seid said.

The ravenous bugs have destroyed nearly 500,000 acres of farmland in a week.
Source: YouTube/Channel 4 News
The ravenous bugs have destroyed nearly 500,000 acres of farmland in a week.

“More swarms are forming from current breeding in Ethiopia and a new generation of laying has started in central Somalia and eastern Ethiopia,” FAO posted to Twitter on Oct 19.

The locust swarms are expected to worsen next year.
Source: YouTube/Channel 4 News
The locust swarms are expected to worsen next year.

“This makes harvesting crops much urgent. Harvesting would take days for each farmer though the crops are matured. Farmers are in need of support of local & international organizations!” Commented Kindeya G.hiwot, Prof, Former President of Mekelle University.

All told, the region could face a $8.5 billion loss in agricultural profits before 2020 is over.

Learn more in the video below.

Matthew Russell is a West Michigan native and with a background in journalism, data analysis, cartography and design thinking. He likes to learn new things and solve old problems whenever possible, and enjoys bicycling, going to the dog park, spending time with his daughter, and coffee.

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