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The Invasion Of Desert Locusts And What It Means To The Governments Of The Great Lakes Region.

The outbreak of locusts in East Africa and the Great Lakes region (which is also the worst infestation to hit the countries in seven decades) pauses massive dangers to human survival. According to the Food Agricultural Organisation, the locust invasion has affected Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Somalia and Eritrea.

The United Nations has raised concerns over the crisis citing the already strained situation in as far as food security is concerned and what it potentially means in the event of another major shock. The region is at the verge of a food crisis and insecurity to the massive destruction of farmlands as hordes of desert locusts keep destroying crops which are crucial in feeding human populations and livestock depend.

According to the Regional Food Security and Nutrition Working Group, East Africa is already experiencing a high degree of food insecurity, with over 19 million people experiencing food shortages and many millions on the brink of acute hunger. This new disaster bodes ill for the region in 2020. The erratic weather of 2019 and the decade prior have already severely eroded the capacity of families to bounce back from unexpected crises. 

The UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimated one swarm in Kenya at around 2,400 square kilometres (about 930 square miles) - an area almost the size of Moscow - meaning it could contain up to 200 billion locusts.

If unchecked, locust numbers are estimated to increase 500 times by June, spreading to the whole of the great lakes region, becoming a plague that will devastate crops and pasture in a region which is already one of the poorest and most vulnerable in the world.

This necessitates urgent preparations to contain the impending disaster as locusts have the potential to destroy the gains that have been registered over the years.

Among the crucial uncertainties that the region has at the moment is the measure of the degree of the impact they will have on the regional economies. However, what is certain is the damage that has hit the agricultural sector which is the mainstay of the region’s economies.

And what becomes clear over the years is that the great lakes region isn't safe from the seismic and accelerating consequences of unforeseen hazards like these which have been exacerbated by Climate Change.

The infestation has put food security in the region in jeopardy. Our agriculture with its heavy dependence on nature, sensitive to climate and atmospheric conditions, is particularly vulnerable. Bees and other vital insects in the eco-system are also expected to be affected threatening to ruin livelihood.

Tackling unforeseen disasters require deliberate effort to confront climate change, which in turn calls for deeper imaginations and envisaging something that has happened a long time before, and for which we thus have no nearest previous frame of reference.

The threat of desert locusts and their impact on food security and livelihoods in the region reeling from drought and deadly floods should attract deliberate policy interventions not ad-hoc and reactionary interventions which are devoid of ambition and seriousness in averting a catastrophe of such magnitude that threatens our very own existence.