Swarms of millions of locusts can decimate crops in many parts of Africa, Asia and the Middle East – leaving behind ravaged fields and putting livelihoods and food security at severe risk. Around 20 million people in Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Uganda and Tanzania are facing acute food insecurity due to a desert locust outbreak.
As part of the LUBILOSA programme funded by the governments of Canada, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Britain and the USA in the 1990s, CABI led an international team that developed a safe and effective biological control product for locusts and grasshoppers. In 2009, FAO reported that the product had effectively treated 10,000 hectares of Red Locust-infested land in Tanzania where otherwise a full-blown invasion would have been caused – threatening the food crops of 15 million people. It was also used again to great effect in Madagascar.
CABI licensed the product to Éléphant Vert and provided the starter cultures from its liquid nitrogen stores. Éléphant Vert is now using its extensive facilities to mass produce and market the product, now called Green Muscle™, across Africa and parts of Asia where it is urgently needed to help in the fight against devastating locust swarms. This video explains how LUBILOSA became Green Muscle™.
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The desert locust remains a key threat to food security across Eastern Africa unless mitigation measures are put in place to track and combat them. As part of an emergency response to the risk posed by this pest, CABI and partners joined efforts to develop actionable farmer-friendly desert locust content to support awareness creation, monitoring and reporting efforts in Ethiopia and Kenya.
The desert locust, Schistocerca gregaria (Forskal), is arguably the most destructive agricultural pest, globally. During 2019 and 2020, the changing weather created conditions that are favoured by the desert locust for rapid reproduction and migration and led to the pest spreading through the Horn of Africa, East Africa, Arabian Peninsula, South West Asia and West Africa. It is estimated that over 25 million people in Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Uganda and Tanzania will face acute food insecurity in 2020 due to the desert locust plague. This initiative tests the use of drones as a new technology to complement traditional desert locust management measures, including the development of Standard Operating Procedures for optimal use of the technology. The project is initially trialled in Kenya with the potential for scaling to other affected African countries.
Pests and diseases cause significant losses of crops around the world and are a significant threat to food security. In China and Laos, locusts affect over two million hectares of agricultural land and recently, the fall armyworm is becoming prevalent in China and Southeast Asia, already affecting 35,000 hectares of maize in Laos. Due to a lack of detailed information on where risks to crops are greatest and farmers using inappropriate and ineffective control measures, managing the damage from pests can be problematic.