World Bank funds Somalia’s fight against locusts

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World Bank has approved a $40 million International Development Assistance (IDA) grant for Somalia as part of the Emergency Locust Response Program.

This comes days after Food and Agriculture (FAO) gave an update on the locust invasion situation across the region. According to the organisation, hopper bands and an increasing number of swarms are present in the northwest between Boroma and Hargeisa and in central areas near Galkayo in Somalia.

Although control operations continue, a general northerly movement of swarms will occur in the three countries. Some of the swarms in northwest Kenya are expected to transit through South Sudan to reach the summer breeding areas of Sudan where some rains have already fallen. In Kenya more swarms continued to form and were seen flying in the northwest.

A statement from the World Bank has indicated that the locust invasion has gravely impacted the livelihoods of nearly 2.6 million living in forty-three districts of Somalia. The agriculture sector remains the backbone of the economy and accounts for about 75 percent of GDP.

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“The Shock Responsive Safety Net for Locust Response (SNLRP) will focus on addressing the immediate impact of the locust infestation on poor and vulnerable households by meeting their short-term food security and consumption needs and protecting their livelihoods and human capital assets through emergency cash transfer. The project builds on the new and Government-led “Baxnaano” (meaning uplifting in Somali) national cash transfer program. It also complements the recently approved Somalia Crisis Recovery Project (SCRP), which focuses on measures to control the spread of locusts and to restore the livelihoods of smallholder households by providing re-engagement farming packages.” The statement from the organisation read in part.

“The locust invasion risks are aggravating the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Somalia and leading to reduced access to food, loss of income, resource-based conflict and limited migration options,” said World Bank Country Director for Somalia, Felipe Jaramillo. “We are supporting the Federal Government of Somalia to put in place a social protection system under the Baxnaano program that can respond quickly to protect subsistence farmers and pastoralists, from falling into deeper levels of food insecurity, as well as preventing the sale/loss of their productive assets.”

After more than two decades of conflict and insecurity, Somalia is gradually establishing the foundations for stability and a new political settlement. However, wide-spread poverty and vulnerability to natural disasters, epidemics and unemployment shocks, threaten this progress and the well-being of millions of Somalis. For example, Somalia has experienced 14 droughts since 1960, averaging one every four years. Today, nearly 70 percent of Somalis live below the international poverty line with poverty being more acute in rural areas, making Somalia the third poorest country in the region.

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“During crisis, poor and vulnerable households are hit hard because they have the least ability to adapt in times of crisis, so they adapt negative copying mechanisms, such as eating less food or less nutritious food, selling off their productive assets and taking children out of school, in order to meet their short-term needs,” said World Bank Task Team Leader for Somalia, Afrah Alawi Al-Ahmadi. “Such measures have a long-term negative impact on the accumulation of human capital of impacted households. The Project will support around 100,000 households with cash assistance to access food and basic needs and therefore, enable them to protect their human and physical assets during the crisis.”

The World Bank Group approved on May 20, 2020 a $500 million multi-phase program of emergency financing, complemented by policy advice and technical assistance, to support countries in Africa and the Middle East affected by the locust outbreak. The Program provides immediate support to affected households through targeted social safety nets like cash transfers, while investing in the medium-term recovery of agriculture and livestock production systems and rural livelihoods in affected countries, as well as strengthen national systems for preparedness and enhancing regional coordination.

During the past week, an increased number of immature swarms were reported in eastern Ethiopia between El Kere and Jijiga, most likely arising from local breeding as hopper bands persist in many areas. This may have also been supplemented by some swarms arriving from northern Kenya. Swarms are also present in the northern Rift Valley and an increasing number of hopper bands have been found in the highlands of Amhara and Tigray.

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Yvonne Kawira is an award winning journalist with an interest in matters, regional trade, tourism, entrepreneurship and aviation. She has been practicing for six years and has a degree in mass communication from St Paul’s University.

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