A supercomputer that the United Kingdom (UK) donated to Kenya is assisting East African countries in tracking locust swarms and pinpointing their potential destinations using satellite data. The ongoing swarms have become an “unprecedented threat” to food security in the region, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. Housed in a regional climate center in the capital of Nairobi, the supercomputer’s sophisticated software that produces accurate forecasts enables more efficient locust control measures, as it can pinpoint which areas are likely to be the most impacted by the swarm’s trajectory over a ten-day span, says Abubakr Salih Babiker, meteorologist and climate scientist at the center. The locust swarms have been particularly devastating to Kenya—the worst infestation the country has seen in seventy years—as well as neighboring Ethiopia and Somalia. Swarms have also been spotted in Djibouti, Eritrea, Tanzania, and South Sudan.
Why It Matters
Both Somalia and South Sudan are slowly rebuilding after years of war and insecurity have wrecked public institutions. Food insecurity is the quickest way for a fragile state to collapse, making this locust infestation a dire threat as Somalia prepares to hold its first democratic election and South Sudan implements a tentative peace deal to end a civil war that has devastated the country for the past six years. Ethiopia, as the second-most populous country in Africa, is also at risk of destabilization should the locust swarms continue their march, jeopardizing reform efforts undertaken by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. A single relatively small desert locust swarm can travel 100 miles (about 160 kilometers) in a day and consume enough to feed 35,000 people.