Written by Lee Chee Yong


At least 20 million lives are at risk as locust swarms threaten food security across East Africa and South Asia. Locusts are the world’s oldest and most destructive migratory pests. An average swarm, which contains up to 40 million locusts, just needs a single day to devour enough food to feed 34 million people 😱. 



This season, an unusually large swarm measuring up to three times the size of New York City was spotted in Kenya. Then, understand that there are many other swarms that have spawned in the region. To make matters even worse, locusts are like The Flash (they can fly up to 150km in a day!). This means that a locust infestation will not be contained to just their region of origin…



According to the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), this generation of locusts has its roots in the Empty Quarter (the desert between Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Oman). In 2018, the population of locusts in the desert exploded after Cyclone Mekunu provided the moist sand and vegetation it needed to thrive. That’s normal, after the sand dries out and vegetation gets depleted, nature would have regulated the locust population back to acceptable levels. SIKE! Another Cyclone hits… just when conditions are returning to one that is unfavourable for locust breeding. In the words of Keith Cressman (a locust expert), this means that “instead of increasing 400-fold, [the population of locusts] increased 8,000-fold”. 

In late 2019, the locusts moved into East Africa when an unseasonal cyclone hit Somalia. Under the conditions of unusually heavy rain, the infestation grew to become Kenya’s worst outbreak in 70 years, Somalia and Ethiopia’s worst in 25, before spreading to Uganda and South Sudan and beyond. Climate change is very real…



Climate change may have triggered this season of locust plague but it is not solely responsible for the plague’s scale. Another factor that aggravated this locust plague is the ineffectiveness of control measures. Yemen is now fertile ground for locusts because the civil war makes it difficult to coordinate any effective measures against the pests in the country. 

Just when are we going to learn how to love… to love one another, to love the environment. Make Peace, Not War.

Lee Chee Yong is a Freshman at the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences who wishes that the History and Political Science discipline had a baby. Feel free to hit him up for a chat about the once-popular TV musical "Glee" or the recently concluded comedy series "The Good Place". Otherwise, he proudly proclaims: "I'm left-handed!"

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