For Africa, Apocalyptic News Just Got Worse

Locust swarms are back, and much bigger
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Apr 10, 2020 9:51 AM CDT
Huge Locust Swarms in Africa Are Back—and Much Bigger
In this photo taken March 31, a swarm of desert locusts flies in Kipsing, near Oldonyiro, Kenya.   (Sven Torfinn/FAO via AP)

Weeks before the coronavirus spread through much of the world, parts of Africa were already threatened by another kind of plague, the biggest locust outbreak some countries had seen in 70 years. Now the second wave of the voracious insects, some 20 times the size of the first, is arriving, per the AP. Billions of the young desert locusts are winging in from breeding grounds in Somalia in search of fresh vegetation springing up with seasonal rains. Millions of already vulnerable people are at risk. And as they gather to try to combat the locusts, often in vain, they risk spreading the virus—a topic that comes a distant second for many in rural areas. It is the locusts that "everyone is talking about," said Yoweri Aboket, a farmer in Uganda. "Once they land in your garden they do total destruction."

A failed garden of cassava, a local staple, means hunger. Such worries in Aboket's village of some 600 people are reflected across a large part of East Africa, including Kenya, Ethiopia, and South Sudan. The locust swarms also have been sighted in Djibouti, Eritrea, Tanzania, and Congo. What's more, the new swarms are not only bigger, they include "young adults," voracious bugs "that eat more than the adult ones," said Kenneth Mwangi, a satellite information analyst at the Nairobi-based Climate Prediction and Application Center. Favorable breeding conditions for locusts through May mean there likely will be another new round of swarms in late June and July, coinciding with the start of the harvest season, warns the UN Food and Agriculture Organization. The agency calls the locusts an "unprecedented threat" to the region's food security.

(Read more locusts stories.)

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