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FAO warns of desert locust outbreak in east Africa



The Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) on Thursday warned that an outbreak of desert locust was looming in the eastern African region.

According to FAO, the desert locust is likely to invade Kenya by the end of this year in the absence of urgent interventions.

The UN agency said that the pest could multiply and spread due to weather conditions hence causing damage to crops.

“This could result in potentially adverse impacts on the agricultural seasonal yields and local economies affecting food security and livelihoods of the populations in the countries concerned,” said FAO.

FAO said that mature swarms were seen at several locations during the past weeks, causing substantial crop damage in northeast Somalia.

It added that hopper bands are now forming along the northwest coast and probably in the northeast arising from eggs laid by the swarms and this could give rise to new swarms by about late August.

Meanwhile, FAO has initiated the process of purchasing additional equipment to increase the capacity of governments to respond to desert locus.

FAO has appealed to the international community to help build capacities in Eritrea, Ethiopia and northern Somalia that are equally threatened.

It called on regional countries to monitor the field conditions through regular ground surveys and undertake necessary control measures whenever they detects the insects.

Swarms of tens of millions of locusts can fly up to 150 kilometres a day with the wind and desert locusts (Schistocerca gregaria) live about three months, and a female locust lays about 300 eggs.

According to the organisation, a desert locust adult can consume roughly its own weight in fresh food per day that is about two grams every day.

A very small swarm eats the same amount of food in one day as about 35 000 people.


Biodiversity at risk as forests cut down “at alarming rates”: FAO




The world‘s forests continue to be cut down at “alarming rates,” the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization(FAO) said in its State of the World’s Forests 2020 report released Friday.

The 188-page report, which caps a decade of studies on biodiversity under the oversight of the United Nations, examines the contributions of forests and of the populations that use and manage them, with an eye toward forest conservation.

According to the report, forests occupy less than a third of the world‘s land, but they account for 80 percent of all amphibian species, 75 of bird species, 68 percent of mammal species, and around 60 percent of all vascular plant species. But that biodiversity is at risk, the report said.

“Deforestation and forest degradation continue to take place at alarming rates, which contributes significantly to the ongoing loss of biodiversity,” the FAO report said.

The report added that over the last 30 years at least 420 million hectares of forests have been lost to land-use changes, mostly to agricultural development, or in some cases for the production of wood. The lost forest land is roughly the equivalent to the size of the north African country of Libya, FAO said.

The news is not all bad, however. The report said the rate of deforestation has slowed in recent years, from around 16 million hectares per year in the 1990s to 10 million hectares per year over the last five years.

FAO headed the production of the report in collaboration with the United Nations Environment Program. Rome-based FAO is headed by Qu Dongyu, a former vice-minister of China‘s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs.


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Feature: FAO promotes first Int’l Tea Day to help improve global health, fight poverty




To promote tea consumption among the world‘s population, the Rome-based UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has spearheaded the effort to mark May 21 as the International Tea Day that falls on Thursday for the first time.

FAO said that the day was organized in part because of the health benefits of tea, which is believed to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, and also as a way to strengthen the economies of the main tea-producing countries, which are clustered in Asia and Africa.

“Welcome excellencies, dear guests, friends and tea lovers,” FAO Director-General Qu Dongyu, said to open a virtual meeting of world leaders, economists, and tea industry figures called to mark International Tea Day.

Qu said, “this day is a proof that the United Nations recognizes the importance of tea”, adding that the economic benefits of tea as a crop were important. “Most tea is grown in poor areas, often mountainous areas that need the economic development that comes from tea.”

Calling the day’s activities a “celebration of life,” Qu called on the world to “celebrate tea and tea farmers and producers around the world.”

In a series of statements FAO furthered Qu’s remarks. “International Tea Day is an opportunity to celebrate the cultural heritage, health benefits, and economic importance of tea, while working to make its production sustainable from the fields where it is grown to individual teacups, ensuring its benefits for people, cultures, and the environment,” FAO said in a statement.

FAO further explained: “The tea industry is the main source of income and export revenues for some of the poorest countries and, as a labor-intensive sector, provides jobs, especially in remote and economically disadvantaged areas,” it said. “Tea can play a significant role in rural development, poverty reduction, and food security in developing countries, being one of the most important cash crops.”

Marco Bertona, president of the Italian Tea & Infusions Association — one of the main organizations that lobbied the United Nations and FAO to celebrate International Tea Day — said the double goal of improving health outcomes and aiding farmers in developing countries is an important combination.

“Tea is a healthy drink and it improves the quality of life for the people who drink it. And encouraging its use helps the economic prospects for tea farmers in poor and developing countries,” Bertona told Xinhua. “Promoting the use of tea spreads benefits.”

According to the statement from FAO, the origins of tea date back more than 5,000 years ago, in what is now southwest China, northern Myanmar, and northeastern India. Today, it is grown in more than 35 countries and more than 13 million people depend on tea in some way for their livelihoods.

International Tea Day, which will be celebrated annually going forward, is part of the United Nations’ far broader Millennium Development Goals, which seek to eradicate poverty and hunger, improve educational outcomes, combat disease, foster sustainability, and promote gender equality, among other areas.

According to FAO, International Tea Day addresses several of those points, including fighting poverty and hunger, empowering women, and sustainable development.


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Yemen could face “catastrophic” food shortages amid coronavirus outbreak, FAO warns




Yemen, the west-Asian country already hobbled by five years of military conflict, could face “catastrophic” food shortages due to supply problems connected to the global coronavirus pandemic, the Rome-based United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said Monday.

Even before the coronavirus outbreak emerged, warfare had pushed Yemen to the brink of famine, FAO said.

Now, with the pandemic interrupting food supply systems and foreign aid, the situation has become more severe. Also contributing to the problem is the worldwide economic slowdown, which has sparked a significant drop in remittances from Yemeni nationals living and working outside the country.

“The health system [in Yemen] was already under heavy stress and it will now be overwhelmed if COVID-19 continues to spread,” Abdessalam Ould Ahmed, the FAO’s assistant director-general and regional representative for the Near East and North Africa said in a statement, adding that the pandemic “will affect the movement of people and the movement of goods.”

“The situation could be catastrophic if all the worst-case scenarios come to be,” Ahmed said. “The UN is working on avoiding that.”

FAO said that nearly 16 million out of 28 million residents of Yemen were classified as “food insecure before the coronavirus pandemic.”

FAO’s report on Yemen is the latest in a series of reports it has produced to highlight problems of food security in the developing world amid the coronavirus pandemic.


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FAO calls for measures to mitigate COVID-19 induced hunger



The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), says it is imperative for nations to evolve measures to mitigate hunger associated with the current COVID-19 pandemic.

Mr Marco Cantillo, FAO’s Deputy Director,  Agriculture Development Economics Division, in a statement issued on Tuesday in Abuja, said that  global economic activities would  be greatly affected as a result of COVID-19 pandemic.

“ Large scale consequences for the incomes and welfare of all, but especially for the most vulnerable food import-dependent countries.

“ In the absence of timely and effective policy responses, this will exacerbate an already unwelcome increase in the number of people who do not have enough to eat,” he said.

Cantillo said that a  report produced by  the FAO with other UN partners had last year warned of economic slowdowns and downturns that explained rising undernourishment  in 65 of  77 countries.

The International Monetary Fund had just slashed its global gross domestic product forecast by 6.3 per cent, making FAO’s analysis more relevant as part of a worldwide toolkit to prevent the health crisis from triggering starvation.

He said that in January the IMF anticipated global GDP would expand by 3.3 per cent but in April when much of the world was shutting down to contain the spread, it issued a new forecast of minus 3.0 per cent.

“ Sub-Saharan Africa, a region that is home to the world’s highest hunger rates and where the average age is around 20 years, must now brace for its first recession in a quarter of a century.

”Analysing data of food supply since 1995, linked to FAO’s statistical development of the prevalence of undernourishment (PoU) indicator, and correlating them to past local economic trends in countries that are net food importers, we find that millions of people are likely to join the ranks of the hungry as a result of the COVID-19-triggered recession.”

Cantillo said that the number would vary according to the severity of GDP growth contractions, ranging from 14.4 million to 80.3 million depending on the scenario.

The actual outcome could be worse if current inequalities in access to food are worsened, something that absolutely should not be allowed to happen.

“The world is not facing food shortages, which was why FAO has from the pandemic’s outset advocated that all countries must do their best to keep food supply chains alive.

“With the new estimates emerging from a strictly economic analysis – based on food supply and availability and not other central pillars of food security.

FAO is emphasising that all countries must also foster measures to protect people’s ability to access food that is locally, regionally and globally available,” Cantillo said..

Edited /Obike Ukoh











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COVID-19: Response must not exacerbate hunger, malnutrition, says FAO, WHO, WTO



 The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), World Health Organisation (WHO) and the World Trade Organisation (WTO), have called for care to minimise potential impacts of COVID-19 containment on food supply, global trade and food security.

The three world bodies said in a statement jointly signed by their Directors-General, QU Dongyu, Tedros Ghebreyesus and Roberto Azevedo, of FAO, WHO and WTO respectively.

According to them, governments should ensure that responses to COVID-19 does not unintentionally create unwarranted shortages of essential items and exacerbate hunger and malnutrition.

They said when actions were being taken to protect the health and wellbeing of their citizens, the countries should ensure that any trade-related measure do not disrupt the food supply chain.

“Millions of people around the world depend on international trade for their food security and livelihoods.

“Such disruptions including hampering movement of agricultural and food industry workers and extending border delays for food containers, result in the spoilage of perishables and increasing food waste,” the trio said.

The directors-general noted that uncertainty about food availability could spark a wave of export restriction and create a shortage on the global market.

“Such reactions can alter the balance between food supply and demand, resulting in price spikes and increased price volatility.

“We learned from previous crises that such measures are particularly damaging for low-income, food-deficit countries and to the efforts of humanitarian organisations to procure food for those in desperate need.

“We must prevent the repeat of such damaging measures. It is at times like this that more, not less, international cooperation becomes vital,” they said.

According to them, in the midst of COVID-19 lockdown, efforts must be made to ensure that trade flows as freely as possible, especially to avoid food shortage.

2wa2″SiwaaaAamilarly, it is also critical that food producers and food workers at processing and retail levels are protected to minimise the spread of the disease within this sector and maintain food supply chains.

“Consumers, in particular, the most vulnerable, must continue to be able to access food within their communities under strict safety requirements,” they said.

The directors-general advised countries to ensure that information on food-related trade measures, levels of food production, consumption and stocks, as well as food prices, was available to all citizens in real time.

“This reduces uncertainty and allows producers, consumers and traders to make informed decisions.

“Above all, it helps contain ‘panic buying’ and the hoarding of food and other essential items,” they said.

According to the world leaders, now is the time to show solidarity, act responsibly and adhere to common goal of enhancing food security, food safety and nutrition and improving the general welfare of people around the world.

Edited By: Olagoke Olatoye


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COVID-19: FAO urges stakeholders to keep global food chains alive



Mr Qu Dongyu, the Director-General, Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), of the United Nations has stressed the need to keep global food chains alive amidst the coronavirus pandemic ravaging the world.

Dongyu said this on Monday in a statement made available to Nigeria News Agency in Abuja through the National Commutation Officer Mr David Tsokar.

The statement said COVID-19 pandemic was putting enormous strains on the public health systems around the world, and millions of people in the world’s most advanced economies are in some form of quarantine.

“We know the human toll will be high, and that massive efforts to turn the tide carry a heavy economic cost.

“To reduce the risk of an even greater toll – shortage of food for millions, even in affluent countries – the world must take immediate actions to minimise disruptions to food supply chains.”

According to the statement, a globally coordinated and coherent response was needed to prevent the public health crisis from triggering a food crisis in which people cannot find or afford food.

“For now, COVID-19 has not entailed any strain on food security, despite anecdotal reports of crowded supermarket sieges.

“While there’s no need for panic – there is enough supply of food in the world to feed everyone – we must face the challenge: an enormous risk that food may not be made available where it is needed.’’

According to the statement, the COVID-19 outbreak, with all the accompanying closures and lockdowns, has created logistical bottlenecks that ricochet across the long value chains of the modern global economy.

Restrictions of movement, as well as basic aversion behavior by workers, may impede farmers from farming and food processors who handle most agricultural products from processing.

Shortage of fertilizers, veterinary medicines and other input could also affect agricultural production.

Closures of restaurants and less frequent grocery shopping diminish demand for fresh produce and fisheries products.

These will affect producers and suppliers, especially smallholder farmers, with long-term consequences for the world’s increasingly urbanised population, be they in Manhattan or Manila.

Uncertainty about food availability can induce policymakers to implement trade restrictive measures in order to safeguard national food security.

Given the experience of the 2007-2008 global food price crisis, we know that such measures can only exacerbate the situation.

Export restrictions put in place by exporting countries to increase food availability domestically could lead to serious disruptions in the world food market, resulting in price spikes and increased price volatility.

It stated that in 2007-2008, these immediate measures proved extremely damaging, especially for low income food deficit countries and to the efforts of humanitarian organisations to procure supplies for the needy and vulnerable.

The statement urged that the world learn from recent past and 


 make the same mistakes twice, adding that Policy makers must take care to avoid accidentally tightening food-supply conditions.

It said that every country faces its own challenges, and there should be collaboration between governments and the full gamut of sectors and stakeholders because the experience was a global problem that required a global response.

“We must ensure that food markets are functioning properly and that information on prices, production, consumption and stocks of food is available to all in real time.

“This approach will reduce uncertainty and allow producers, consumers, traders and processors to make informed decisions and to contain unwarranted panic behavior in global food markets.

Edited By: Modupe Adeloye/Donald Ugwu

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Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) welcomes European Union contribution of €11 million to fight Desert Locust outbreak




FAO Director-General QU Dongyu today welcomed an € 11 million contribution from the European Union as the UN agency steps up efforts to fight the Desert Locust upsurge which has now spread from East Africa to the Persian Gulf.

The European Commission announced €10 million would come from the European Commission's Directorate-General for International Cooperation and Development (DEVCO). Another €1 million has also been allocated from the European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO).

 “I want to thank the European Union for its generosity and support as the Desert Locust threatens to provoke a humanitarian crisis in East Africa,” Qu said.  

The Director-General said the situation was extremely alarming in a region where 20 million people were already considered food insecure.

The locust outbreak is the worst in Ethiopia and Somalia for 25 years and the worst infestation that Kenya has experienced in 70 years. Djibouti and Eritrea have also been affected while swarms have been reported in South Sudan, Uganda and the United Republic of Tanzania.

This week there was a new development as strong winds brought swarms of Desert Locusts to both sides of the Persian Gulf to Bahrain, Kuwait and Qatar reaching as far as southwest Iran.

“We must urgently scale up action to protect rural livelihoods and assist farmers and their families,” Qu said. “There is no time to waste.”

The Desert Locust is considered the most destructive migratory pest in the world and a small swarm covering one square kilometer can eat the same amount of food in one day as 35,000 people.

FAO has appealed for $138 million in urgent funding to assist the countries that have been impacted. So far only $52 million has been received.

The Director of the FAO Liaison Office in Brussels, Rodrigo de Lapuerta Montoya, gave an update on the  upsurge to the Working Party on Humanitarian Aid and Food Aid of the Council of the European Union last week. The Member States expressed their concern about the situation and confirmed their commitment and trust in FAO's work.

Dominique Burgeon, FAO's Director of Emergencies and Resilience, also briefed the European Parliament's Committee on Development in Brussels.

“It is an extreme situation,” Burgeon said. “We have a window of opportunity to bring this under control.” FAO's Desert Locust Information Service says the situation will be further exacerbated by new infestations expected in the coming months.

Pasture and croplands have already suffered damage in Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia, and there are potentially severe consequences for the region where millions rely on agriculture and livestock rearing for their survival. If favourable weather conditions continue, as expected, needs will grow.

FAO is already on the ground helping governments and other partners with surveillance and coordination, technical advice and the procurement of supplies and equipment.

The UN agency is also preparing action to protect rural livelihoods by providing affected growers with farming packages, veterinary care for vegetation-starved livestock, and cash for families who have lost their crops so that they can purchase food.

Of the $138 million, FAO has proposed the following amounts to help fight the outbreak: Djibouti ($1,965,000); Eritrea ($8,500,000); Ethiopia ($50,500,000); Kenya ($22,100,000); Somalia ($32,200,000); South Sudan ($ 8,650,000); United Republic of Tanzania ($505,000); Uganda ($8,580,000).

Desert Locust monitoring, forecasting and control are at the heart of FAO's mandate. Its Desert Locust Information Service has been in operation for nearly 50 years. FAO's well-established field presence, ability to link up authorities from different countries, and expertise in Desert Locust management make it a key player in responding to upsurges like that currently affecting East Africa and the Red Sea area.

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FAO donates agriculture livelihood to 1,000 Cameroonian refugees




The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) says it has provided agricultural support to about 1,000 Cameroonian Refugees and host community in Cross River to improve their livelihood.

Mr David Tsokar, the National Communication Officer, FAO disclosed this in a statement made available to newsmen on Tuesday in Abuja.

He said the gesture was part of efforts made by FAO to improve access to nutritious food and revive livelihood of Cameroonian refugees and their host communities.

According to the statement, FAO Country Representative, Suffyan Koroma said the items are carefully selected to assuage the livelihood challenges of the refugees, especially “the most vulnerable women’’.

Koroma said the intervention targets seven local governments in Cross River which are Ogoja; Ikom; Obanliku; Boki; Etung; Akamkpa and Calabar, while in Benue, Ikyogen, where the state government resettled the refugees from Anyeke.

He said with the recent influx of over 8 000 refugees, the total of 60 000 Cameroonians accommodated in the three states.

“The micro gardens would support the food and nutrition needs of the households and increase the resilience of the affected population to threats and crises.

“To ease the process, the target beneficiaries are trained on backyard gardening, nutrition sensitive agriculture and food systems, agriculture value chain and market access and mainstreaming gender and protection in agriculture and livelihood at Ogoja level.

“The UN Agencies collaborated with the State’s Emergency Management Agencies (SEMA), Local Government Agricultural Development Officers (ADP) in each of the targeted LGAs, with the support of the Community leaders.

According to the him, the seven affected local government areas in Cross River state have collected micro-gardening kits, safe kits, farm tools and equipment.

Koroma said the interventions were carried out under the joint project agriculture and livelihood support to Cameroonian refugees and host communities in Cross River, Benue and Taraba States.

Edited By: Celine-Damilola Oyewole/Grace Yussuf


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Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) welcomes $10 million donation from Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to fight Desert Locust upsurge in East Africa




FAO Director-General QU Dongyu today welcomed a $10 million donation from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to support the fight against the Desert Locust upsurge in East Africa as the UN agency expanded its appeal.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation said its donation would assist FAO as it supports governments in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia to combat  locust infestation that is posing a significant threat to food production and livelihoods in the region.

“I want to thank the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for its generous support as the Desert Locust threatens to provoke a humanitarian crisis,” Qu said.  “I urge other donors to follow their lead so we can protect rural livelihoods and assist farmers and their families.”

The latest locust outbreak is the worst to strike Ethiopia and Somalia for 25 years and the worst infestation that Kenya has experienced in 70 years.

According to FAO's Desert Locust Watch, Djibouti and Eritrea are also affected, and swarms have spread to the south east of South Sudan and the northern edges of Uganda and Tanzania and as far as the south-west coast of Iran.

FAO has now raised its appeal to $138 million, from the initial $76 million a month ago, in urgent funding to assist the countries that have been impacted. So far $33 million has been pledged or received.

Qu said the situation was extremely alarming and the next few weeks would be critical for mounting an effective containment operation.

“The upsurge is threatening people's livelihoods and food security in a region that is already seriously food insecure,” he said. “There is no time to waste.”

The Desert Locust is considered the most destructive migratory plant pest in the world and a small swarm covering one square kilometer can eat the same amount of food in one day as 35,000 people.  Under the right weather conditions, they reproduce rapidly and the population could multiply 500 times in the next six months.

Pasture and croplands have already suffered damage in East Africa and there are potentially severe consequences for the region where millions rely on agriculture and livestock rearing for their survival.

The Bill & Melinda Gates 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.

FAO is already helping governments and other partners with monitoring and surveillance and coordination assistance during control operations.

The UN agency is also preparing to take action to protect rural livelihoods by providing affected growers with farming packages, veterinary care for livestock, and cash to families who have lost their crops so that they can purchase food.

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