Israeli Locust Slayers Train Ethiopian Farmers

A desert locust in the Somali region of Ethiopia, December 2019. Photo ©FAO/Petterik Wiggers

“Some call it a plague. Yoav Motro calls it a war. The enemies are huge armies of desert locusts destroying farm and grazing lands across nine East African countries. In Ethiopia alone, the locusts have conquered three million acres since January. Motro, the vertebrates and locust specialist for Israel’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, captained a successful battle against these winged creatures in Israel in 2013. When the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) of the United Nations approached Israel for financial support for Ethiopia in fighting these most destructive migratory pests in the world, Motro felt that wasn’t sufficient. ‘I said, I have a better idea: to help them help themselves. We can do that by bringing the correct equipment with us and training them to use it.’ That’s how Motro and three handpicked experts ended up spending two weeks of November in Jigjiga (Jijiga) in Ethiopia’s Somali region. As the expression goes, giving a man a fish will feed him for the day; teaching him to fish will feed him for a lifetime. Giving him a fishing rod makes it possible. The Israelis handed the Ethiopians a ‘fishing rod’–in the form of 27 surveillance drones, 100 motorized backpack sprayers and in-person training–enabling locals to vanquish the locusts on their own in the future. Tamir Ashual of the Agriculture Ministry led logistics officer training. Yoav Muller of Muller Professional Pest Control taught the nighttime spraying method developed in Israel. ‘It’s a novel method based on what we learned in 2013: To attack the locusts at night when they are asleep. That gives us an edge,’ Motro tells ISRAEL21c. According to the FAO, 40 million to 80 million locusts can converge in a single swarm over a square kilometer. In one day, they can consume crops that could have fed 35,000 people.”

“Israeli locust slayers,”, Nov. 29, 2020