Swarms of locusts have invaded farms and grazing land in 22 villages in southern Somalia’s Bardera district in Gedo, one of the latest regions of Somalia to be hit by the devastating insects that are still on the move.
Hassan Ali Hassan has a six-hectare farm in Laheleey village, 12 km away from Bardera, where he was just preparing to harvest his produce.
“I have planted sesame, tomatoes and onions. Millions of insects have descended on us from above and this has caused havoc in the area,” said Hassan.
Hassan relies on income from his farm to support his large family of two wives and nine children, including paying school fees for eight of his children. He fears his family might face food scarcity and his children could drop out of school.
Although aid organizations provided Hassan with sesame seeds and helped him fuel the tractors cultivating the fields, he took huge loans to advance his farm.
“I have borrowed a lot of money, around $6,000, which I used in cultivating the land, buying other seeds to plant, as well as paying the workers,” said Hassan.
Mohamed Abdirahim Gatow, the head of the farmers’ association in Bardera, said the locusts have destroyed 847 farms in the space of a week. One of the farms is his own.
Mohamed said that they have not had any help from the local administration, but the local farmers have been coming together in a desperate bid to drive away the locusts using crude methods.
“We have mobilized the local people and the youth to shoot in the air and use all means to drive them away. As the association of farmers, we have tried to help each other, we have even tried to contact other villages before the locusts reach them,” he explained.
The regional representative for agricultural affairs in Gedo region, Abdifatah Mohamed Adan, told Radio Ergo that they do not have the technical or financial capacity to control the locusts. However, he said the federal government has promised to give Gedo authority 10 tanks of pesticides to be used in Luq, Dollow and Beled-Hawo, which were the among the first hit areas in the region.
This means that Bardera, which was more recently hit, will have to wait to see if for more pesticides are made available to tackle the swarms of locusts.
Experts say this is the worst locust invasion in 60 years. Some advice given to farmers has been to dig trenches to catch and bury the crawling larvae that pose an ongoing threat as they hatch and grow.
According to FAO, 70,000 hectares of farms in Somalia and Ethiopia have been wiped off by locusts. FAO also warned that if the locusts are unchecked, their numbers across the region could multiply 500 times by June.
The locusts have invaded when people were preparing to harvest their produces after they received good rainfall in the Deyr rainy season. The farmers hope that they will recover from protracted drought.