On the 4th September, the SADC Secretariat in partnership with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) Sub-regional Office for Southern Africa and the International Red Locust Control Organisation for Central and Southern Africa (IRLCOCSA) launched a Technical Cooperation Project (TCP). The project is meant to address the outbreak of the African Migratory Locust, Locusta migratoria, (AML) in the region. Member States attended the launch through the SADC Plant Protection Technical Committee (SPPTC) and Development partners including United States Agency for International Development (USAID), World Bank and European Union.
The region has experienced outbreaks of a number of transboundary plant pests and diseases, with the Fall armyworm been the latest to be introduced in 2017. Climate change is believed to be the major driver of new introductions due to changes in weather patterns that create conducive environment for introduction, establishment and spread of new pests and diseases.
In 2020, locust outbreak has been reported in a number of countries in Africa, Asia and south America and the SADC region has not been spared. Locusts cause serious food and nutrition insecurity and loss of livelihoods through damage to crops and grazing. In May 2020, AML was recorded in 8 SADC Member States, namely; Botswana, Eswatini, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania and Zambia.
Since May 2020 there has been a resurgence of AML outbreak in parts of southern Africa. The affected SADC Member States are Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Efforts to control hopper bands and swarms remained minimal. The pest has spread from its traditional breeding areas in the Okavango delta, Chobe wetlands and the Zambezi plains into new areas. The growing number of AML hotspots and spread is of great concern given the threat to irrigated crops as well as to the main planting season, which is imminent. The threat from the AML can have a multiplier effect on the already precarious food and nutrition security situation.
The AML outbreak exacerbates the serious economic challenges Member States are already facing including resource constraints posed by Covid-19 response mechanisms. Currently the region has 44.8 million people (75% of which are rural population) recorded to be food insecure. In addition, Member States also have to deal with other pressing priorities in the economies including management of other pests and diseases including tomato leaf miner (Tuta absoluta), Banana Bunchy Top Virus Diseases, Maize Lethal Necrosis Disease, to mention but a few.
SADC is working with the Food and Agriculture Organization's Sub-Regional Office for Southern Africa (FAO SFS) and the International Red Locust Control Organization for Central and Southern Africa (IRLCO-CSA) to strengthen the capacity of affected countries and regional institutions to respond to the AML threat.
In order to successfully fight the African Migratory Locust threat, SADC Member States have agreed to come together to strengthen emergency response capacity of affected countries and regional support institutions to suppress the pest especially in the hotspots, establish community-based locust monitoring, early warning and control to strengthen the nexus between emergency response and community resilience; strengthen early warning systems through community participation, surveillance, mapping and use of IT reporting and communication applications; emergency procurement of monitoring and response equipment, pesticides and or services; undertaking emergency ground spot spraying with environmentally friendly synthetic pesticides and strengthening of existing inter-country information exchange and coordination mechanisms for effective collective response.
As one of the key strategies to contain the African Migratory Locust, Member States are urged to consider being part of IRLCOCSA, to maximise the regional work in combating transboundary plant pests and diseases and also to take opportunity of the availed resources to build regional resilience and learn from the past experiences to forge sustainability in addressing the locust.