A new centre to build Somalia’s national capacity to manage Desert Locusts


President of Puntland State, Said Abdullahi Dani, and Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) Somalia Country Representative, Etienne Peterschmitt, have today opened the National Desert Locust Monitoring and Control Centre in Somalia.

The centre, which is based in Qardho, Bari Region will not only serve Puntland but will also act as the National Desert Locust Early Warning and Control base.

The construction of the centre was implemented by FAO and generously funded by the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (UKaid) and United States Agency for International Development (USAID) through two projects in support of the Desert Locust response to mitigate impacts of Desert Locusts on food security and livelihoods in the region.

The two donors have been supporting Desert Locust survey and control activities as well as supporting the livelihoods of communities affected by the Desert Locust upsurge.

The worst Desert Locust crisis in decades hit the Greater Horn of Africa in late 2019, where tens of thousands of hectares of cropland and pasture have been damaged. The invasion has had severe consequences for agriculture-based livelihoods in contexts where food security is already fragile with Somalia one of the worst hit countries.

In Somalia, where vast majority of people depend on agriculture and livestock for their livelihoods, recurrent drought and floods have resulted in significant impacts on household food security, and the desert locust crisis has exacerbated the crisis, increasing the severity of the threat to rural families.

“The Desert Locust situation has taken its toll on our communities. It has negatively affected livelihoods and human and animal health across the region. With the support of our international partners, the USA and the UK, we are determined to continue our efforts to control and monitor the desert locust situation. Resources, training and facilities like the Desert Locust Monitoring Centre mean that we are not just responding in the present, but have the capacity to manage these crises in the future as well,” said Said Abdullahi Deni, President of Puntland State after the official opening of the Centre, which was followed by meetings in Qardho town.

Collaboration Efforts by FAO and the Somalia government

FAO had been progressively working with the government of Somalia to control the spread of and devastation caused by the Desert Locust since it started appearing in alarming numbers across the Horn of Africa two years ago.

In a bid to save lives and livelihoods in the already fragile context, FAO, along with government partners, has been implementing Desert Locust control operations which included air and ground control and surveillance to combat the invasive pest as well as programmes aimed at sustaining the livelihoods of affected communities.

The newly established centre continues that collaborative effort, helping the Somali government to lead in management of the crisis, and ensuring they are better prepared for such challenges in the future.

“The government of Somalia has made control of the Desert Locust as well as other invasive species their number one priority. The government is in the process of enacting the required laws that will ensure Somalia is well protected against such pests. Part of these efforts include the formation of Somali Agriculture Regulator Inspection Services (SARIS) as well as National Desert Locust Unit (NDLU) which are directly under my ministry,” said Said Hussein Id, Minister for Agriculture and Irrigation, the Federal Government of Somalia.

“The government is grateful to FAO and other partners for the support they have provided to make this possible; including the construction of this centre as well as the continued support in training the ministry staff and supporting the control operations,” he said.

A hub for Somalia’s Desert Locust control operations

Somalia is one of the countries to have made huge gains in suppressing one of the largest desert locust upsurges in living memory. Facilities such as these will help with any resurgence that climatic conditions might trigger – and surveillance and control operations must be maintained at scale, with government taking the leading role.

“We want to make sure that, with collaboration of the government, Somalia has the institutional and technical capacities required to handle and manage pesticides, and monitor the Desert Locust movements as well as to carry out aerial control for effective desert locust management across the country. This centre will act as a hub for all Desert Locust control operations now and in the future,” said Etienne Peterschmitt, FAO Country Representative for Somalia.

Over the past year alone, the failed rains, severe floods and locust swarms have destroyed crops and livelihoods.

“We are pleased that this centre will act as a hub for control operations of the desert locust in Somalia, and the UK is glad to be supporting it,” said Damon Bristow, UK’s Development Director. “The UK is also hosting COP26 – and we will be keeping the region’s climate needs front and centre. We are committed to support Somalia and Somalis to tackle this threat.”

“The United States is committed to supporting the people and the government of Somalia to mitigate the impacts of Desert Locusts. Establishing this permanent institution to monitor and control Desert Locust operations is crucial to help promote recovery and restoration of food security and livelihoods, not only for Somalis but for the whole region,” said Patrick Diskin, USAID Somalia Mission Director.

Wararka La Xiriira