The desert locust is considered the most dangerous migratory pest in the world. According to FAO, the current upsurge in East Africa is the worst in 25 years in Ethiopia and Somalia and the worst in 70 years in Kenya.
Most affected areas are currently facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food insecurity. According to the IPC, 9.75 million people living in areas affected by desert locusts in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia are currently or projected to be in Crisis(IPC Phase 3) or worse.
While the locust upsurge is rapidly developing, its current impacts on food security has not yet been felt on a large scale.Most major cropping areas of the region have not yet been affected. In the case of agricultural areas, most crops had either already been harvested or were in late stages of maturity when desert locust swarms passed through, thereby limiting losses. In pastoral areas, rangeland resources were well above average following heavy October – December seasonal rains, which helped to offset the effects of desert locust damages thus far.
Desert locusts are expected to continue to breed and spread during the coming months. Given their life cycle, the MarchApril start of the long rains, coinciding with a regeneration of rangeland and the start of planting activities, will enable a new wave of breeding and further spread of the pest. Desert locusts have already reached northern Uganda, and looking forward, the infestation could: 1)spread further into the Rift Valley (especially in Ethiopia), as well as to South Sudan, 2) affect the 2020 main and secondary staple cropping seasons, and 3) continue to affect rangeland across the region.
Under a most-likely scenario,the food security impacts will be significant for affected householdsin areas where swarms pass through and cause damages, with the greatestfood security impacts felt by households reliant on cropping activities who are already facing food insecurity (IPC Phase 2+) due to their existing high vulnerability and the effects of expected crop losses. Pasture losses are also expected in areas where swarms land, though expected above-average to average rainfall over the coming monthsislikely to partially offset the impacts.
Though not considered likely, a worst-case scenario where desert locusts cause 1) below-average 2020 national harvests, and 2) major pasture losses in arid and semi-arid regions, the food security outlook would be more dire. In this scenario, below-average food stocks and pasture conditions, reduced incomes, and rising food prices would likely drive widespread food insecurity for cropping, agro-pastoral, and pastoral households across the region.