The Southern African Development Community (SADC) has launched a US$20 million Regional Appeal for support to control the outbreak of the devastating African Migratory Locusts (AML) in the Region.
The appeal, launched virtually on 11th November, 2020, follows the continuous threat posed by the locusts that have invaded the region since beginning of the year. The first outbreak was reported in February and affected Botswana, Eswatini, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania and Zambia. At the time, the affected Member States were able to control the swarms. However, there was a resurgence of the locusts in May 2020, which affected Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
The funds will cater for emergency locust response and preparedness, co-ordination, preparedness, building emergency regional response capacity, risk communication and recovery, and resilience building of affected communities, They will also be used for cross-border protocols; to enhance national and community level coordination; planning and liaison for effective response; facilitate ground surveillance, mapping and early warning for anticipatory action; and to facilitate the mounting of a regional response, including logistics support, among affected communities.
Regional stakeholders and partners have so far made efforts to address the impact of AML at all levels, including through a series of virtual meetings with affected Member States and key stakeholders, which were convened to understand the dynamics of the outbreak and to review and update the information on the status of the outbreak. In addition, the SADC Secretariat in consultation with the affected Member States and regional stakeholders, including the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation sub-regional office for Southern Africa developed a regional Technical Cooperation Project (TCP) to the amount of US$500,000 to assist countries to control the outbreak.
However, as the project is rolling out, the AML swarms have increased and spread to Angola and other parts of the previously affected Member States. The increased spread and the potential of the AML outbreak poses a serious threat to summer cropping and this requires SADC to act urgently in a coordinated manner to control it. The resources currently available from Member States and through the TCP led by FAO are no longer adequate to contain the outbreak hence the need for the regional appeal.
SADC said urgent resources are therefore needed to support the emergency and recovery components of the Southern African Locust Response Plan in order to prevent the pest from causing more damage to off-season crops and to avoid it threatening the next planting season, which starts in November. As the pest is transboundary in nature, a coherent regional response is required to ensure effective and sustained control of the pest. The control, surveillance and mapping capacity of countries need to be urgently enhanced. It is particularly important to control AML, which is a transboundary flying pest, before the onset of the main planting season in order to avoid its spread and devastating damage on crops and grazing lands.
Control operations by affected Member States have only been partially successful due to the absence of dedicated locust control units, poor logistical support and lack of suitable vehicles to reach inaccessible areas. There is also lack of appropriate pesticides, including bio pesticides, inadequate locust aerial and ground control capacity, limited pest surveillance and mapping ability, lack of specialised locust spray equipment and lack of personal protective equipment.
Speaking during the launch, Honourable Celso Correia, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development of the Republic of Mozambique, commended SADC Member States for having agreed, during a meeting of their Technical Committee of Directors of Crops in October, to strengthen emergency response capacity of the affected countries and enhance regional support institutions to combat the pest, particularly in hotspot areas.
The locusts outbreak, Hon. Correira said, is a regional challenge that has the potential to worsen the region's problems as it comes at a time the region is facing the most daunting scourge of COVID-19.
"May I therefore call upon our partners to fully support this effort with a view to combat this outbreak that has potential to proliferate not just to all SADC Member States but to migrate across other regions with dire consequences for food security for the African continent," he said.
In her remarks, the SADC Executive Secretary, Her Excellency Dr Stergomena Lawrence Tax, highlighted that the outbreak of the African Migratory Locusts was a serious impediment to agriculture production and productivity, and has the potential to increase food insecurity especially with the already precarious regional food security situation caused by the persistent droughts and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
H.E Dr Tax said the outbreak of the locusts comes when the SADC Region is still recovering from a number of disasters, including the persistent El Nino-induced drought that started in 2016/17, the impacts of cyclones Idai, Belna and Kenneth that affected the region last year, and the COVID-19 pandemic whose socio-economic impact continue to be felt across the various sectors in the Region. These multiple disasters had resulted in an upsurge in vulnerabilities, including poverty and food insecurity, which leaves SADC citizens less capacitated to adapt to the challenges through own means.
"The combined impacts of COVID-19 and the African Migratory Locusts outbreak are likely to further worsen vulnerability to extreme weather patterns, among other challenges encountered in the region," said H.E Dr Tax.