FAO boosts Rwanda’s preparedness for Desert locust invasion

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The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has trained 20 agriculture experts in Rwanda on Desert Locust survey and control operations, as part of efforts to increase the country’s preparedness in case of the swarm’s invasion.

The week-long training conducted through FAO’s Regional Commission for Controlling Desert Locust in the Central Region (CRC), was concluded on Monday.

The trainees were drawn from the Rwanda Agriculture Board (RAB), District Agriculture officers from the Eastern and Northern provinces as well as staff from a local pesticide manufacturing company, Agropy Ltd.

Rwanda hasn’t reported any invasion of Desert locust. But the training was part of FAO’s support to the Government of Rwanda’s existing preparedness plan.

Early this year hundreds of billions of locusts swarmed through parts of East Africa in the worst invasion for a quarter of a century, threatening crops and livelihoods.

The spread of the locusts in the neighboring countries of Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania, put Rwanda on alert to keep the pest at a bay.

The training included two days sit-in and three days of simulation exercise conducted in Nyagatare district, Eastern Province, according to a statement.

The Eastern Province faced more threat to the invasion of the locusts because of the microclimate conditions and soil type in the area.

The trainees were briefed on how, where and when to survey and detect locusts with different survey types and methods as well as using new spraying equipment not used in Rwanda before.

The Desert Locust insects, which eat their own body weight in green food every day, are breeding so fast, their numbers could grow four hundredfold by June, according to FAO.

In a March “Desert Locust situation update”, FAO said the locust situation remained “extremely alarming in the Horn of Africa”, specifically Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia, where widespread breeding is in progress and new swarms are starting to form, representing an unprecedented threat to food security and livelihoods at the beginning of the upcoming cropping season.

Preparedness improves capability to respond

In his remarks, FAO Representative, Gualbert Gbehounou, expressed his appreciation for the efforts put in Rwanda’s preparedness.

He pledged FAO’s readiness to provide the necessary support to adequately prepare the country to confront Desert Locusts.

Essam Mahmoud Khalifah from the FAO-CRC, said: “FAO believes in preparedness and readiness for a country to be in a better position to control and manage the Desert locusts. We wish all countries to have a contingency plan in place.”

Jean Claude Izamuhaye, from RAB said the training provided them skills to complement their knowledge.

The Ministry of Agriculture had already trained some farmers and agronomists and intends to train more in desert locust control and management.

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