UK govt donates £18million to tackle locust swarms in Africa, Asia— Official

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The government of the United Kingdom said it has donated £18 million (N8.874 billion) aid funding in order to boost locust swarm’s response in Africa and Asia, which has been ravaging farmland crops in both continents since the beginning of this year.

This was announced by the International Development Secretary, Anne-Marie Trevelyan on Thursday, during a visit to British company Micron Group, on the Isle of Wight, which supplies pesticide sprayers to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), according to a statement issued by Ndidiamaka Eze, Press and Public Affairs officer, British deputy high commission in Lagos.

“New UK-aid support will be used to tackle this year’s unprecedented locust outbreaks across Africa and Asia, where millions of insects are destroying thousands of hectares of crops,” the statement reads.

Before now, the UK government had previously donated £ 8 million (N3.944 billion) for the desert locust appeal.

Desert Locust

The Locust swarms are a result of heavy rainfall and cyclones over the past two years, which provide ideal environments for rapid breeding.

They are the most destructive of all locust species, known for their speedy growth and enormous appetites.

A swarm containing an estimated 200 billion locusts was recorded in Kenya. Each insect can eat its own weight in food – that equates to about as much food as 84 million people a day.

The insects have already destroyed hundreds and thousands of acres of crops in East Africa.

Breakdown of fund

According to the statement from the British deputy high commission, since January this year, the FAO has successfully controlled over 600,000 hectares of land, saved 1.2m tons of crops with a value of $372 million and has eradicated over 400 million locusts in 10 countries in East Africa.

It says of the new funding announced, £17 million (N8.381 billion) will go to the FAO’s emergency appeal to help to control the increase of locusts across East Africa, Yemen and South West Asia, and as well reduce the risk of swarms spreading into the Sahel.

Of this amount, £11million (N5.423 billion) is for the greater Horn of Africa and Yemen, to contain the spread of locusts through monitoring, surveillance and spraying activities, while £5 million(N2.465 billion) is earmarked for the Sahel and West Africa to increase regional preparedness and coordination with early intervention, and £1million(N493 billion) is for Southwest Asia to focus on technical assistance and coordination in the countries with the resources to lead the response themselves.

More so, the statement highlights that an additional funding of up to £1m( 493 billion) will go towards African Crop Epidemiological Systems(ACES), a consortium which includes the Centre for Agriculture and Bioscience International, CGIAR’s International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre, Scriptoria and the University of Cambridge, to establish tools, technologies and partnerships needed for effective pest surveillance, early warning and response functions in plant health management in Sub-Saharan Africa.

“This support, in collaboration with the University of Cambridge and weather data from the UK Met Office, will help the FAO to target locust breeding sites and control outbreaks before they’re able to affect crucial crops and pastures,” the statement noted.

Meanwhile, it says the World Bank had estimated that the cost of supporting farmers and producers affected by locusts in East Africa and Yemen alone could reach $8.5bn by the end of 2020.

Scourge

Mr Trevelyan was quoted to have said “Vulnerable communities are on the brink of starvation because of the biggest locust outbreak in decades, made worse by the coronavirus pandemic.”

The DFID official said the British expertise is playing an important role in equipping companies with the right tools to combat the swarms and track where they will go next.

“But unless other countries also step up and act now, this crisis will spread and cause even more devastation,” he said.

In his remarks, the Abuja British High Commission, John Primrose, said he is delighted by the donation, as it will help to support affected communities to combat swarms in both continents mentioned.

“These two regions face a number of challenges, but increasing levels of hunger in North-East Nigeria is of particular concern to us,” he continued, “Following more than a decade of conflict and now the indirect impact of Covid-19, there are 4.3 million people in crisis or emergency levels of food insecurity in the BAY states— Borno, Adamawa and Yobe,” he said.

In a similar manner, Anthony Outlaw, Micron Group Operations Manager, said “Micron are proud to support the world in fighting against locusts through supplying cutting-edge equipment for the FAO,”

“We have continued to work tirelessly throughout the pandemic to meet this demand. The whole team understands the importance of tackling this outbreak and the impact on food security it has for millions of people.”

Reacting to the donation, the director-general of the FAO, Qu Dongyu, said “We are once again grateful to the United Kingdom for their consistent support, which will go far helping to safeguard the food security and livelihoods of vulnerable farmers and their families in Africa and Asia threatened by desert locust.”



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