Locust infestations threaten to exacerbate food insecurity in Yemen
Above-average rainfall in Yemen in June and July provided favourable desert locust breeding conditions enabling the formation of hopper bands and mature swarms in areas in Marib, Al Jawf, Abyan, Shabwah, the Hadramaut plateau and Al Mahrah, Hajjah and Al Hudaydah governorates. Large desert locust infestations were reported in central areas of Hadramaut, Al Mahrah, Al Jawf and Marib governorates, where they destroyed cereal crops, animal feed, vegetables and fruit trees. Swarms of mature desert locust were also observed in Taizz, Ibb, Aden, Marib and Sana’a governorates. In addition, a few swarms were seen in the foothills near the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden coastal plains. There have also been sightings of locusts on the southern coast near Aden, in the interior near Shabwah, and on the eastern plateau between Raymah Governorate and the Oman border.
According to the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization), the ongoing conflict has exacerbated the situation, impeding an effective response to locust infestations since swarms formed in 2018, unlike the last two major outbreaks in 2007 and 2013, when Yemen was able to effectively monitor and control forming locust swarms. Production losses caused by locusts can be a driver of food insecurity and have a long-term impact on the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of Yemeni farmers, who are already vulnerable and have in recent months been forced to cope with multiple shocks, including ongoing conflict, floods and COVID-19. FAO has warned that the recent wave of desert locust attacks in Yemen could potentially further endanger the survival and sustenance of large sections of the rural population. FAO has also warned that sizeable locust populations are likely to build up in Yemen that could lead to swarms reinvading the Horn of Africa, and perhaps the Indo-Pakistan area.
FAO has stepped up the response to desert locust to curb the spread of the pest, preventing production losses and protecting livelihoods. It activated fasttrack procedures so that operations can be planned and launched with greater flexibility, including rapid deployment of staff and scaled-up programmes. In addition, FAO has already mobilized US$ 1 million from its own resources to step up control operations in Yemen.
FAO aims to limit, as far as possible, the desert locust population, so it does not become a fullyfledged plague. It is doing this by conducting surveillance operations to detect locust populations and rapid interventions to control dangerous locust infestations before they can cause damage to crops. Its ground teams have run control operations in more than 35,000 hectares since January 2020.