The livelihoods of farmers and pastoralists in Yemen have been heavily affected by the ongoing
desert locust infestation. The ravenous agricultural pest has damaged crops in many areas of
the country putting a strain on thousands of people already exhausted by years of conflict.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) is supporting Yemen’s
Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation in desert locust control operations through logistics and
by training field teams.
Desert locusts have also attacked crops of radish, onion, sesame, watercress and even date
palms, resulting in significant losses for farmers.
“Locust swarms have attacked the farms and did not keep any crop, and now they will eat the
animal’s fodder, which we use to feed our sheep” explains Musae’ed Mubarak Ali Al-Gunaimi, farmer and pastoralist from Hareeb Village, Ma’rib Governorate.
“Locusts have eaten everything in four days” says Hussain Mohamed Abdullah Al-Zubaidi,
farmer from Ar Rudud Village, Tarim Governorate, adding that: “they left nothing there but the
Yemen is a significant breeding ground for desert locust and controlling the infestation in the
country is crucial to prevent a new spread of the pest both in Horn of Africa and in Southwest
FAO is supporting desert locust control operations through logistics, providing over 14,850 liters
of pesticide and by training 393 field teams in effective control techniques and health, safety,
and environment best practices.
“We suffered from the lack of potentials and financial support. However, we thank FAO for
their effort and the General Directorate for Plant Protection for facilitating this task for us”, says
Yasir Mohammed Saleh Ali, employee of the General Directorate for Plant Protection in the
Beiyhan District, Shabwah Governorate.
Unfortunately, not all areas of the country are accessible mainly due to the security situation,
giving the locusts the time and space for breeding.
Considered the worlds’ most damaging migratory pest, the desert locust can reproduce at
lightening pace given the right conditions. Each three months, a breeding cycle can see their
numbers grow by 20 times, exponentially.
Desert locusts target crops and vegetation used as forage by pastoralists’ herds, and they eat
their own weight a day (2 grams). There can be from 40 million to 80 million locust adults in
each square km of a swarm. Swarm sizes can range from under 1 square kilometer to several
hundred square kilometers. Just one small swarm (1 square km) has the potential to eat the
same amount of vegetation and crops in one day as 35,000 people.
Seasonal weather changes are now driving the voracious crop pest to move in search of green
vegetation to eat. In inland breeding areas where the last two years have been marked by good
rains, conditions have now dried out over the past month, reducing the amount of vegetation
available there. The migration of desert locusts to new areas is seeing an uptick of activity on
Yemen’s coast and other areas of the Arabian Peninsula.