Microsoft founder Bill Gates has joined the fight against swarms of locusts ravaging parts of Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia.
Through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Gates donated $10 million (Ksh1 billion) to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to support ongoing efforts by governments in the three countries to deal with the locusts.
It is feared that if the locust invasion remains uncontrolled, it could pose a serious threat to food security and livelihoods in the region.
Gates Foundation CEO Mark Suzman urged other donors to get on board the campaign to combat the desert locusts believed to have originated from the Middle East.
File image of Bill and Melinda Gates
“We’re committed to supporting the FAO and governments in East Africa as they work to prevent a potential humanitarian crisis.
“We urge additional donors to join us now in helping communities respond to this threat,” Suzman wrote on Twitter on Monday, February 24.
The Gates’ contribution is expected to be channelled towards supplying pesticides and maintaining air-craft being used to spray the swarms which continue to ravage crops.
“The locust invasion is the worst Kenya has seen in 70 years, and the worst in nearly a generation in Somalia and Ethiopia. Djibouti and Eritrea are also affected, and swarms have now reached neighbouring Tanzania, and Uganda.
“The foundation’s support is intended to help FAO and national governments confront the critical need for rapid control of the infestation, including aerial control of large swarms,” a release from the Gates foundation read in part.
German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who is in Kenya for a three-day state visit, also announced on Monday that Germany would donate 3 million Euros (Ksh328 million) to aid in the fight against locusts.
He spoke at State House, Nairobi after a meeting with President Uhuru Kenyatta.
FAO director General Qu Dongyu had warned that the desert locust invasion could spark a humanitarian crisis as he mobilized donor support to combat the swarms.
In a release sent to newsrooms on Thursday, January 30, FAO explained that the desert locust was considered the most destructive migratory pest in the world, noting that a small swarm covering one square kilometre can eat the same amount of food in one day as 35,000 people.
“We need to act immediately because the locusts don’t wait, they will come and they will destroy. We need to tackle the emergency but we need to think about livelihoods and the long-term,” stated FAO deputy director-general for climate and natural resources Maria Helena Semedo.
A farmer walks by a swarm of desert locusts in Kenya in January 2020