IGAD member states to develop effective strategies for sustainable pests management

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Control and management of desert locusts and other pests that threaten food security in eastern and northern Africa are the main agenda of an ongoing Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) meeting in Nairobi.

Starting yesterday, agriculture ministers, heads of delegations, and representatives of IGAD member states have been meeting in Nairobi to lay out strategies for sustainable livelihoods.

Desert locusts and other transboundary pests such as quelea birds, fall armyworms, and African armyworms frequently hinder agricultural activities in the region.

Climate change and its attendant phenomena such as El Niño are worsening the situation, which is causing devastating floods and creating ideal breeding conditions for migratory pests.

These, together with erratic weather patterns, are exacerbating the difficulties agricultural communities face, affecting their livelihoods and well-being.

According to Dr Workneh Gebeyehu, IGAD’s Executive Secretary at the Ministerial Meeting of the Inter-Regional Platform for Sustainable Management of Desert Locusts and other Transboundary Pests, frequent invasion by pests poses significant challenges to the region and threatens food security.

Most severe locust outbreak

“We have witnessed the catastrophic impact of these challenges firsthand. Unprecedented rainfall in 2019, triggered by El Niño, led to one of the most severe desert locust outbreaks in recent history, devastating vast areas of agricultural land. This crisis highlighted the urgent need for a unified regional strategy,” said Gebeyehu.

He was speaking during the forum for ministers in charge of agriculture, heads of delegations, and representatives of IGAD member states in Nairobi.

Amid favourable ecological and weather conditions during the 2023 rainy season of October, November, and December, the region – comprising Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, and Uganda – successfully averted another desert locust outbreak comparable to the 2019/2020 one.

In 2021, these nations and organisations established the Inter-Regional Platform for Sustainable Management of Desert Locusts and other Transboundary Pests. They were supported by the World Bank’s Emergency Locust Response Programme.

Collective commitment

Mr Mithika Linturi, the Cabinet Secretary (CS) for Agriculture and Livestock Development, thanked all the regional stakeholders for their collective commitment to address the severe challenges posed by transboundary pests that threaten agriculture, ecosystems, and livelihoods.

“The issues we face with migratory pests, particularly desert locusts, quelea birds, fall armyworms, and African armyworms, are not isolated threats; they represent significant obstacles to our collective food security and economic stability within the IGAD region”, said the CS.

In a speech delivered by Livestock Principal Secretary Jonathan Mueke, on his behalf, the CS noted that these pests devastate crops, leading to substantial yield losses and economic setbacks.

The resulting food insecurity affects vulnerable communities, in particular, hindering efforts toward sustainable agricultural development, observed the CS. He also pointed out that persistent pest outbreaks increase the overheads of farmers, who must invest in expensive control measures.

Addressing the challenges

Mr Linturi announced that the upcoming Steering Committee and Ministerial Meetings on Transboundary Pest Management, organised by the Inter-Regional Platform for Managing Transboundary Pests, will aim at tackling these significant threats to food security.

The meetings will facilitate international collaboration, align policies across borders, and enhance the understanding of climate change on pest dynamics.

The IGAD representatives were flanked by the World Bank’s Desert Locust Control Organisation-East Africa (DLCO-EA) delegates, ministers, member states, lead MDAs, and experts in agriculture and pest management, among other partners.

The workshop was hosted by Kenya’s Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development in the country’s capital city, Nairobi.

“For the IGAD region, the meetings will coordinate pest control, enhance biopesticide use, and develop action plans,” said the CS.

A one-day training session will build expertise among crop protection officials for a unified response. The committee will focus on addressing transboundary pests over the next three days.

Linturi said Kenya would share its pest management expertise to benefit regional partners. He stressed on the need for a coordinated regional response to manage these pests.

“Our agenda promotes collaboration, aligns policies, and strengthens biopesticide-based management strategies”, he noted.