Belgium supports the fight against locusts in East Africa

Belgium is donating 462,000 euros to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) to combat quickly a locust plague in Ethiopia. The CERF is also taking action against locusts.

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Sky is black with locusts

A herd of camels is trying to find its way through an invasion of locust in the Somali region of Ethiopia. © FAO/Petterik Wiggers

Gigantic swarms of desert locusts are ravaging East Africa. Favourable weather conditions – 2 big cyclones with lots of rain – optimised their reproduction in the Saudi Arabian desert in 2018. This caused the swarms to suddenly infest East Africa, where it was also wetter than usual.

Locusts cause an enormous devastation to food production. After all, each locust eats its own weight in food every day. This means that even a small swarm of 1 km² can consume as much food per day as 35,000 people. A typical swarm can comprise up to 150 million locusts and travel 150 km a day.

Destroyed nature

The impact of the locust plague is huge!​ © FAO/Petterik Wiggers

Organic pesticide

Ethiopia is also badly affected. The country is suffering its worst locust crisis in 25 years. Around 90,000 hectares of farmland and meadows have already been affected. 80% of Ethiopians depend on agriculture and pastoralism for their food and income. An estimated 8.5 million people will risk malnutrition between February and June 2020.

Man spraying pesticide

A government staff of the Ethiopian ministry of Agriculture is spraying against locust in the Somali region of Ethiopia. © FAO/Petterik Wiggers

The FAO is attempting to contain the locust plague. Indeed, aided by Belgium's contribution of 462,000 euros, the FAO will support the Ethiopian government in dealing with the swarms. The UN organisation's help will include providing materials, such as spraying equipment for pesticides and GPS devices. It also wishes to try out the biopesticide Green Muscle, which causes less damage than chemical pesticides.

Rapid action is critical. ‘If we delay, the numbers of locusts could already be 400 times greater by June 2020,’ says the FAO. Last year, Belgium already donated 100,000 euros to combat locusts in Yemen.

Here you can follow the locust plague closely.


The above-mentioned Belgian contributions to the FAO were channelled through the Special Fund for Emergency and Rehabilitation (SFERA), an instrument allowing rapid action to be taken in crisis situations. In 2020, our country will donate 4 million euros to SFERA.

Belgium supports 2 windows in SFERA: “Early Action” and “Agriculture Input Rapid Response Capacity” (AIRC). Early Action means that the authorities are alert to the very first signals in order to be able to intervene early, AIRC indicates a rapid response. The combination of both makes it possible to minimise the harmful impact of disasters on food security. And this is crucial when dealing withlocust infestations.

Precisely because our country is committed to rapid, flexible and effective humanitarian aid, it also supports the CERF. In 2019 Belgium offered 17 million euros. The CERF is the UN's Central Emergency Relief Fund, a fund that can intervene very quickly in emergency situations. In January 2020, the CERF released 9.2 million euros to combat the locust plague. This supported actions in Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia.