Horn of Africa Endangered by Untrue Media Attacks on Ethiopia

(courtesy bangkokpost.com

Horn of Africa Endangered by Untrue Media Attacks on Ethiopia

Lawrence Freeman

February 4, 2021

In January 2021, the world witnessed a barrage of attacks on Ethiopia aimed at undermining the efforts of Prime Minister Dr. Abiy Ahmed to preserve the sovereignty of the Ethiopian nation.  This is a dangerous gambit not only for the potential harm it can trigger for the people of Ethiopia, but also for the security of the Horn of Africa.  It is well known that Prime Minister Abiy launched the Prosperity Party (PP) in 2019 to create a non-ethnic centered political party to overcome the rise of ethno-nationalism. Unfortunately, ethnicity is embedded in Ethiopia’s 1995 Constitution. The PP challenged the decades long control over Ethiopia’s political institutions by the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), who then lashed out  against the government in Addis Ababa.

Ethiopia has provided stability in an oftentimes volatile region, as well as economic leadership in East Africa. Neighboring Somalia, where Ethiopia forces have combatted Al Shabaab for many years, is in a precarious state following the removal of U.S. AFRICOM troops to its unsettled and  contentious presidential election. Somalia has also severed diplomatic relations with Kenya.

Additionally, unresolved, and sometimes quarrelsome talks between Sudan, Egypt and Ethiopia pertaining to the fill rate of Nile waters for the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) are still ongoing.

War is Sometimes Necessary

The Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front committed sedition when they attacked the military base of the Ethiopian National Defense Force (NDF) stationed in Mekele, in the early hours of November 4, 2020. They killed NDF soldiers in their sleep and stole munitions for their militia. Prime Minister Abiy had no alternative but to launch a full scale military response to subdue the insurrection conducted by the leadership of the TPLF.

No one can argue that war is not horrible and deadly, and that it causes severe  collateral damage. People are displaced, economy is disrupted, and civilians suffer. No death of a single human being is insignificant because the human race is endowed by the Creator with noble creativity. However, to preserve the nation-state for more than one hundred million Ethiopians living today and for hundreds of millions more in the future, war, when absolutely necessary, must be waged. (Read: Ethiopia’s Conflict: A War Won to Preserve the Nation-State)

I am reminded of the famous Gettysburg Battlefield in Pennsylvania, and the enormous number of American deaths that occurred during the U.S. Civil War. An estimated 700,000 Americans died during this four yearlong brutal war, of which 50,000 were civilians. President Abraham Lincoln was unyielding in his commitment to save the Union, no matter the cost of human life. Lincoln possessed the inner directedness to maintain the Union as an indivisible whole, against the separatist rebels. Had he not, the U.S. would have been destroyed by slavery, and a slave economy; the world today would be entirely different-and for the worse.

Media Stokes Fears Regarding Tigray

Western media, led by the British, have use inflammatory stories to encourage the withholding of humanitarian aid from Ethiopia, at precisely the moment when it is needed most.

The Washington Post in its  January 27th editorial demands that the US and European Union “should withhold further aid until …government agrees to pursue peace talks,” after accusing Prime Minister Abiy of having “all the earmarks of Ethiopia’s previous dictators.”

More egregiously, is the headline in the January 23rd issue of the London Economist: After two months of war, Tigray faces starvation. In a blatant assault on Ethiopia and Prime Minister Abiy, the Economist accuses the government of  “war crimes” and quotes an unnamed western diplomat who says, “we could have a million dead there in a couple of months.”

Barely a week after the start of the war, with the TPLF insurrectionists still in control of Tigray, CNN printed an inflammatory headline: Mass Killings of civilians in Tigray region, says Amnesty International. CNN writing on the cruel massacre of 600 Ethiopians on the evening of November 9, in the town of Mai-Kadra, south-west Tigray, blatantly failed to report; that it was forces loyal to the TPLF, not the Ethiopian NDF, who committed this atrocity.

 

United Nations Deputy Secretary General meets with Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (courtesy ethiopia.un.org

The Big Lie

The most often repeated allegation against the Ethiopian government, first reported by the Associated Press (AP) is; that there are 4.5 million Tigrayans in need of immediate lifesaving aid. Under the headline, ‘Extreme urgent need’: Starvation haunts Ethiopia’s Tigray, AP reports on January 17, “More than 4.5 million people, nearly the region’s entire population, need emergency food” according to an unnamed source. The article continues, “a [unnamed]Tigray administrator warned that without aid, ‘hundreds of thousands might starve to death’ and some already had, according to minutes obtained by The Associated Press.” Following the AP story, news outlets all over the world including on YouTube videos, recited the same narrative; 4.5 million Tigrayans were starving.

There is a second article in issue of the London Economist sighted above, in a section labelled Famine Crimes, with the headline, Ethiopia’s government appears to be wielding hunger as a weapon, with a subhead, A rebel region is being starved into submission. In this article, the Economist equates  Prime Minister Abiy with former Ethiopian Marxist dictator, Mengistu Haile Mariam, whose policies contributed to the death of one million Ethiopians during the drought from 1984-1985. They write:

“Things were supposed to be different under Abiy Ahmed, the Ethiopian prime minister who was hailed as a reformer when he took charge in 2018, and who won the Nobel peace prize the following year. Yet once again it looks as if hunger is being used as a weapon in Africa’s second-most-populous nation.”

The London based Guardian on January 24, printed an opinion column by Simon Tisdal, entitled, Ethiopia’s leader must answer for the high cost of hidden war in Tigray. He wrote:

“After humanitarian workers finally gained limited access this month, it was estimated that 4.5 million of Tigray’s 6 million people need emergency food aid. Hundreds of thousands are said to face starvation.”

BBC News published the following headline on February 1, Tigray crisis: ‘Genocidal war’ waged in Ethiopia region, says ex-leader, quoting Debretsion Gebremichael, who is leading the TPLF military campaign against Ethiopia.

 Truth or Propaganda?

The estimated population living in the Tigray region is probably from 5 to 5.5 million. Thus, according to the media, 4.5 million or 82-90% of the Tigrayan population need emergency assistance. These figures are too implausible to be considered accurate. UNICEF on November 19, 2020, asserted that there are 2.3 million children in the Tigray region in need of humanitarian assistance. If that were true, it would mean between 40-45% of the Tigrayan population are children, which is improbable.

These exaggerated hysterical claims are designed to inflame public opinion against the government of Ethiopia.

Representatives of the Ethiopian government report, that due to poor infrastructure and underdeveloped land there were 1.8 million Tigrayans in need of aid prior to the military outbreak. TPLF controlled Tigray during this period. As a result of this TPLF instigated conflict, an additional 700,000 are in need, for a total of 2.5 million. While this is an extremely large number of Ethiopians who require assistance, which should not be ignored, it is much less than 4.5 million.

Information provided by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), which coordinates global emergency response, is closer to the figures offered by the Ethiopian government.  OCHA’s January 26, Tigray Region Humanitarian Update reports 950,000 people in need of aid prior to November 4, and projects 1.3 million more Tigrayans will need assistance resulting from the conflict, for a total of almost 2.3 million. In the same update, OCHA reports: “Movements of humanitarian cargo inside Tigray is improving substantially. Last week, four of the submitted cargo requests have been cleared to be dispatched.”

Clearly, living conditions on the ground for millions of Tigrayans is deplorable. Food, non-food, medical and related assistance is urgently needed to prevent further loss of life. However, there is no evidence of mass starvation, and no evidence that Prime Minister Abiy is using food as a weapon against the Tigrayan people.

President Biden’s Message to the 34th Summit of African Union. courtesy of Namibia Embassy na.usembassy.gov)

What the U.S. Should Do

President Biden has an opportunity to create a new U.S.-Africa policy, and contribute to the well-being of Ethiopia, and the Horn of Africa.

The Biden administration should support the sovereign obligation of the Ethiopian government to deploy its military in defense of the nation following the attack by the TPLF on the Ethiopia’s NDF in Mekele. This should extend to denouncing unfounded inciting accusations that the government is using food as a weapon against the Tigrayan people.

The U.S. should immediately utilize its unique military-logistical capability to deliver assistance to the Tigray region. This should include all Ethiopians and refugees who are suffering as a result of the TPLF’s reckless treasonous actions.

President Biden should immediately reverse Donald Trump’s awful decision to withhold $130 million in aid to Ethiopia. The failure to restore this aid at this critical juncture could result in increased suffering.

Contrary to Trump’s interference in the tripartite talks between Sudan, Egypt and Ethiopia, the U.S. should allow African nations in partnership with the African Union to resolve the remaining concerns regarding the operation of the GERD.

Most importantly, recognizing that the Tigray region, like other sections of Ethiopia are in need of vital categories of infrastructure, the U.S. should invest in the construction of roads, railroads, energy generation, and water management. A nation that provides it citizens with the physical goods and services essential for a rising standard of living is best equipped to mitigate ethnic tensions that often arise from economic marginalization. Let this crisis in Tigray become an opportunity to usher in a new paradigm of U.S.-Africa strategy by President Biden, who should be guided by the wise words of Pope Paul VI: development is the new name for peace.

 Lawrence Freeman is a Political-Economic Analyst for Africa, who has been involved in economic development policies for Africa for over 30 years. He is the creator of the blog: lawrencefreemanafricaandtheworld.com

World Food Program Awarded Nobel Peace Prize. WFP Dir, Beasley Responds With “Call to Action” to Stop Starvation

David Beasley, the head of the World Food Program, visiting Sanaa, Yemen, September 2018, where the world’s worst hunger crisis continues to unfold. (courtesy WFP/Marco Frattini, September 2018)

October 19, 2020

I whole heartedly congratulate the World Food Program (WFP) for receiving the 2020 Noble Peace Prize “for its efforts to combat hunger.” I also full support WFP Executive Director, David Beasley’s call for action to prevent starvation. Speaking in Niger on October 9, Beasley said: “Just in the last three years, the number of people on the brink of starvation had risen before COVID, from 80 million to 135 million. And now, with COVID, the number of people—and I’m not talking about people going to bed hungry—on the brink of starvation is now up to 270 million people…we are on the brink of disaster.” Earlier this year, Beasley reported that Beasley warned that from 150,000 to 300,000 people could die a day from starvation.

Fifteen African nations account for half of that 270 million. The WFP has identified the following nations as being in dire need of food: Burkina Faso (4.8); Cameroon (5.2); C.A.R. (3.1); D.R.C. (21.8); Ethiopia (18.0); Liberia (0.84); Mali (3.5); Mozambique (3.3); Niger (5.9); Nigeria (23.8); Sierra Leone (2.9); Somalia (6.3); South Sudan (10.2); Sudan (17.7); Zimbabwe (6.3); totaling 133.64 million people.

David Beasley alerted the world, that 7 million people have already died of hunger this year and that figure could increase by“3, 4, 5 times or more.” The WPF calculates that it needs $6.8 billion to prevent famine. With $1.6 billion received so far, $5 billion more is urgently needed. “The $5 billion that we’re talking about is additional money, because we feed 100 million people. It literally is—the starvation rate is spiraling because of COVID and economic deterioration,” he said. “And quite frankly, with the billionaires making hundreds of billions of dollars with COVID, we’re facing the worst humanitarian crises since World War II. They need to step up. We need an extra $5 billion to save millions of lives around the world….This is a call to action. With all the wealth in the world today, no one should be dying from hunger, not a single person.”

Referring to the most severe cases, the Beasley warned: “There are literally about a dozen or two dozen places around the world that, if we don’t get the support that they need, three things are going to happen. One, you are going to have famine, I mean, literally of biblical proportions. Number two, you’re going to have destabilization. And, number three, you’re going to have mass migration. And we can solve all that. We have a cure against starvation, and it is called food.” (all emphasis added)

South African activist, Phillip Tsokolibane has called for a “military mobilization” to provide logistics to stop the spread of hunger in Africa. He said last week from South Africa:

“While various charitable and other organizations have sounded alarm bells and have appealed for money, the issue we face, if we want to save lives, is securing massive amounts of food, as soon as possible, to hungry and starving people. Given the state of infrastructure on the continent and the fact that much of this starvation is occurring in isolated, rural areas, the distribution that must take place is well beyond the means of individual governments and those of relief agencies.

“I believe we must mobilize the logistical capacities of the world’s most capable military forces and design a strategy to bring food supplies from such food-producing nations as the United States and Canada, and bring them directly to those who need them. Let allies and adversaries alike, join forces, in this greatest of all humanitarian efforts.”

Emergency Action Required

  1. We must urgently deliver food to starving people. One single human being dying from starvation is intolerable. Every creative soul that perishes is a loss to the human race.
  2. Nations producing food surpluses must allocate food shipments to feed starving people in Africa.
  3. Logistics for delivery will have to done in a military fashion or directly by qualified military personnel supported by governments.
  4. Roads, railways, and bridges constructed for emergency food delivery can serve as an initial platform for expansion to a higher plateau of infrastructure required for economic growth
  5. Debts must be suspended to enable nations to direct money away from onerous payments of debt service to growing and distributing food.
  6. A new financial architecture-a New Bretton Woods must be established with a facility to issue credit to finance critical categories of infrastructure necessary for economic growth and food production.

Read my earlier posts:

COVID-19 Tragedy Compels Revamping Globalization and Food Production 

Famine in Africa: More Than Humanitarian Aid Required

Lawrence Freeman is a Political-Economic Analyst for Africa, who has been involved in the economic development policy of Africa for over 30 years. He is the creator of the blog: lawrencefreemanafricaandtheworld.com

Africa Threatened With Starvation: No Objective Reason

Millions ‘on the edge’ in DR Congo now in even greater danger of tipping over. WFP food distribution to Internally Displaced People in Kikuku, North Kivu, Democratic Republic of the Congo. WFP/Ben Anguandia

There is no objective reason for hunger in Africa. African nations have abundant fertile land and many water systems that should enable them to be not only food self sufficient, but produce a surplus. With proper investment in infrastructure and planning, stockpiles of food would be available to feed the population during difficulty periods like the present COVID-19 pandemic. With manufacturing and agricultural processing sectors, people would have more job security, then living hand to mouth in the so called informal economy. 

WFP Chief warns of grave dangers of economic impact of Coronavirus as millions are pushed further into hunger

Transcript as delivered of remarks by UN World Food Programme (WFP) Executive Director David Beasley to today’s virtual session of the UN Security Council, September 17, 2020.

“Five months ago, I warned the Council the world stood on the brink of a hunger pandemic. A toxic combination of conflict, climate change and COVID-19, threatened to push 270 million people to the brink of starvation. Famine was real. It’s a terrifying possibility in up to three dozen countries if we don’t continue to act like we’ve been acting…

“As COVID-19 pushed countries everywhere to lock down, the equivalent of 400 million full-time jobs have been destroyed, and remittances have collapsed. The impact has been felt hardest by the 2 billion people who work in the informal economy around the world – mainly in middle and low-income countries. Already only one day’s work away from going hungry, in other words living hand to mouth…

“Let me turn to the countries on today’s agenda. In the DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO, conflict and instability had already forced 15.5 million people into crisis levels of food insecurity. These are people on the brink of starvation. The latest assessment indicates that the upsurge in violence, coupled with COVID-19, has sent this total sky-rocketing to nearly 22 million people, an increase of 6.5 million people. And I should warn you these numbers assume WFP is able to maintain current levels of food assistance. If we are forced to scale back operations, the outlook is even worse

“NIGERIA: COVID-19 is also forcing more people into food insecurity. Analysis shows measures imposed to contain the virus reduced incomes in 80 percent of households. You can imagine the devastation with that alone.

“In the northeast of the country, 4.3 million people are food insecure, up by 600,000 largely due to COVID-19. While in the large urban area of Kano, the number of food insecure people during that lockdown period from March to June went from 568,000 to 1.5 million people – an increase of 1 million people. Very troubling.

“SOUTH SUDAN: The outlook there is similarly worrying, where even before the pandemic, 6.5 million people were expected to face severe food insecurity at the height of the lean season, made worse by the violence in Jonglei State in recent months. This has resulted in the displacement of tens of thousands of civilians, a large number of abducted women and children, and widespread loss of livestock and livelihoods. In addition, virus outbreaks in urban areas such as Juba could put as many as another 1.6 million people at risk of starvation.

Finally, even though it is not on today’s agenda, I also want to highlight the disaster unfolding in Burkina Faso, driven by the upsurge in violence. The number of people facing crisis levels of hunger has tripled to 3.3 million people, as COVID compounds the situation…displacement, security and access problems. For 11,000 of these people living in the northern provinces, famine is knocking on the door as we speak.

Read: WFP Warns Grave Economic Dangers From COVID-19

Food Is Now Up to 250 Percent More Expensive Across Africa

‘With crop reduction comes food scarcity, and prices go up with demand. The Famine Early Warning Systems Network found that Ethiopia, Kenya, South Sudan, Sudan, Uganda, Zimbabwe, DRC, Mauritania, Nigeria, Guatemala and Haiti are the countries that have been most affected by the drop in crop production.

‘In the Republic of Congo, the average price of a basic food basket has increased by 15 percent, while a similar pattern has emerged in Sudan, South Sudan, Ethiopia and Somalia, with an above-average increase in the price of staple foods.

‘Then there’s the rising cost of sorghum – a drought resistant cereal grain that’s popular across the continent. In July, sorghum prices exceeded the five-year average by 150 to 250 percent in Sudan, 50 to 240 percent in South Sudan, 85 percent in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and 20 to 55 percent in Southern Somalia

Read: Food Up To 250% More Expensve in Africa

Lawrence Freeman is a Political-Economic Analyst for Africa, who has been involved in the economic development policy of Africa for over 30 years. He is the creator of the blog: lawrencefreemanafricaandtheworld.com

WFP’s David Beasley Warns of Potential Famines in Africa & Mideast Due to COVID-19

The COVID19 virus arrived in Africa weeks after it hit Asia, Europe and North America. But now, says Berkeley economist Edward Miguel, the virus poses grave risks for Africa and its 1.2 billion people. (AP photo by Patrick Ngugi)

The effects of COVID-19 on food supply chains in developing nations that are already suffering from hunger and acute food insecurity could be more deadly than coronavirus itself, according to David Beasley, Director of the World Food Programme (WFP). Speaking at the Atlantic Council in Washington DC on May 8, via teleconference, Beasley told his audience that, if economic conditions continue to deteriorate and endanger the production and distribution of food to impoverished nations, we could witness famines in Africa, and other parts of the world. “You could have 150,000 to 300,000 people die of starvation every day for several months—at a minimum,” he said. In a six-month period of time that equals between 27 to 54 million deaths. Beasley reported, as he did last month to the United Nations Security Council, that 821 million people around the world go to bed hungry and another 135 million are on the verge of starvation.

The fact that almost 1 billion of our fellow human beings are suffering from these levels of food insecurity is proof of the failure of globalization and an indictment of the current monetarist based financial system. With an abundance of fertile land, growing food and delivering food is a matter of investment in infrastructure. There are no valid objective reasons for any human being to go without food. The world needs a New Bretton Woods System, designed to lift all nations out of poverty, as President Franklin Roosevelt has intended. Nothing short of a global rebuilding of our world economy is required.

WFP’s David Beasley warns of dire famines in Africa, Mideast if COVID-19 supply chains damage continues

Watch video presentation below by World Food Programme Director, David Beasley 

A warning from the World Food Programme

Reuters published on May 7, a graphic report: Virus exposes gaping holes in Africa’s health systems, which quantifies the shortages in Africa of physicians, ventilators, intensive care beds and tests for COVID-19.  This deficit in healthcare infrastructure endangers millions of African, who are already suffering from food insecurity, poverty, lack of clean water, and lack of adequate electricity and other basic necessities of life. From March 30 to May 10, the number of COVID-19 cases in Africa has increased from 4,760 cases and 146 deaths to 64,214 cases and 2,344 deaths. That is an increase of 1300% and 1600% respectively in six weeks. If Africa is at the beginning of the  coronavirus curve, and the virus grows exponentially, as it has in other nations, then Africa will not be equipped to handle the magnitude of the crisis.

Read my earlier articles on COVID-19 and Africa

Lawrence Freeman is a Political-Economic Analyst for Africa, who has been involved in the economic development policy of Africa for 30 years. He is the creator of the blog: lawrencefreemanafricaandtheworld.com

Today, More Than Ever, The World Needs Leadership Like Franklin Roosevelt

Franklin and Eleanor at the 1941 inauguration
Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt riding in an open car, from FDR’s third inauguration. January 20, 1941. FDR Library Photograph Collection

April 15, 2020

I publish below, FDR: Leadership in a Time of Crisis, by my longtime friend and authority on American History, Nancy Spannaus, for two reasons. One, to commemorate April 12, the 75th anniversary of the passing of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the 32nd President of the United States. More than just remembering a great President, we must look to his quality of leadership that the world desperately needs today.

Humanity is faced with the most profound crisis, possibly ever, with the pandemic COVID-19. We have witnessed the deaths of tens of thousands of precious souls, tens of millions of people forced out of work, the once hailed globalized supply chains disrupted, and fears of starvation in the developing sector, and possibly, in the advanced sector as well, in the not too distant future. The Bretton Woods financial system, which is already bankrupt, is on life support from the Federal Reserve and other centralized banks, and our “just in time” economy has failed miserably to weather this crisis.  The global lack of a sufficient-redundant healthcare infrastructure has proved murderous, and we are no-where near the end of devastation from this deadly virus.

Leadership should not just be left to our public officials, who have been deficient, in the last five decades, in creating a healthier economy for our planet of 8 billion people. Let us use this perilous moment of our civilization, to take the time, now, to reflect on what we must do, not only to survive this present crisis, but to guarantee a more prosperous future for all nations.

ReadWorld Needs New Economic Platform to Fight COVID-19

Read: New Economic Order Required to Combat COVID-19 in Africa

 

FDR: Leadership in a Time of Crisis

Read the entire Second Inaugural Address

End Threat of Locust Plague: Transform the Desert

End Locust Plagues: Transform the Desert

February 20, 2020

Lawrence Freeman

Today the food supply of East Africa is threatened by a locust swarm that is ravaging crops in several nations. The Desert Locust (Schistocerca gregaria) is an extremely destructive pest that is found from West Africa, east across the African continent to the Middle East, India, and Asia.

A Desert Locust upsurge can grow into a swarm, and under the right conditions develop into a plague, affecting two or more regions with concentrated locust infestations. When locust swarms grow and migrate, they endanger the food supply of dozens of nations that comprise a large portion of the earth’s surface. The 1986-1989 plague is reported to have affected over 40 nations destroying crops in the Sahel, North Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, and southwestern Asia.

In 2016, the World Metrological Organization (WMO), and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO), released a report, Weather and Desert Locusts, documenting that the invasion area of the Desert Locusts extends to 30 million square kilometers, over 11.5 million square miles-almost the size of the entire African continent.

The international community must initiate a full scale military style operation to support African nations with resources and personnel, if we are to prevent thousands of more Africans from starvation. Africa, Arabia, India, Pakistan cannot afford a new plague; we have the power to act now to prevent such a catastrophe.

Now is also the opportune time for civilization to confront the more difficult task of “eliminating” desert conditions that spawn the locust. Many initiatives and water infrastructure projects exist to begin the greening of the Sahel.

East Africa’s Food Supply at Risk

A swarm of these deadly locusts can reach several billion, covering an area of 200 by 120 kilometers. Each locust consumes its weight daily in food-2grams, resulting in a loss of hundreds of thousands of tons of food meant to feed the population. According to the United Nations’ (FAO), “each square kilometer of swarm can include 40 to 80 million locusts and eat as much food as 35,000 people.”

The swarms are active in Kenya, Somalia, and Ethiopia, and have spread to Uganda, and South Sudan. It is estimated that 11 million people are already considered food insecure in this region of Africa. According to the U.N., this new invasion of locust swarms could cause food insecurity to an additional 20 million Africans. The UN reports that the swarms are the largest that Somalia, and Ethiopia have experienced in a quarter of a century. Kenya has not faced this severe of an incursion in 70 years. Somalia has declared a national emergency, in response to the Desert Locust invasion, as has Pakistan. Already, 71,000 acres of farmland in Ethiopia and Somalia have been destroyed.

Keith Cressman, senior forecaster for the FAO, reported that the swarms have moved across the border into Tanzania and Uganda. He said: “Action taken in Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya – as well as Pakistan – will now determine what happens next. If the current upsurge crosses more borders and infests more regions, devastating more crops, it could be declared a ‘plague’.”

The Uganda government has responded appropriately to the threat to their food supply by deploying the military to assist in spraying of pesticides.

Desert Locust invade Ethiopia (Courtesy TESFANEWS)

Emergency Action Required

The U.N. has asked for $76 million in immediate aid. So far just under $20 million is in hand, including $10 million released from the U.N. emergency relief fund and $3.8 million from FAO. The United States originally agreed to contribute $800,000, and the European Union 1 million Euros. However, even with a pledge of $8 million to fight the locust incursion, announced by Secretary of State, Mike Pampeo during his recent visit to Ethiopia, the total is barely more than a third of the funds requested. The international community is being dangerously shortsighted, if not morally criminal, by allowing the locust swarms to exacerbate existing food shortages.

Dominique Burgeon, the FAO’s emergency and resilience director warned that without aerial spraying the current surge can turn into a plague, “and when you have a plague, it takes years to control.”  Mark Lowcock, the UN’s top humanitarian official, told ambassadors at a UN briefing last week: “We are running out of time. We do have a chance to nip this problem in the bud, but that’s not what we are doing at the moment.”

It is imperative the aerial and ground spraying be expanded immediately, and all necessary resources be provided. African nations lack the adequate number of planes necessary, most having less than a handful that can be deployed to combat the swarm. According to The New Humanitarian, the five planes that Kenya deployed to break up the swarms initially faced a shortage of the insecticide, fenitrothion. They report that the Deputy Minister of Agriculture for Somalia, Maud Ali Hassan said, “We are lacking all resources, including the expertise to prevent a humanitarian disaster.”

In addition to the full complement of aerial and ground spraying that must include a sufficient number of planes, insecticide, and four wheel drive vehicles to reach remote areas, which the locust infected nations lack, Cressman raises the possible deployment of drone technology.

Ultra Low Volume spraying with insecticides produces a mist with droplets that has proved effective in killing this deadly pest.

In his article, Preventing the spread of desert locust swarms, Cressman writes: “The operational use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) – also known as drones – could potentially overcome these limitations in many affected nations. In the field, UAVs could be used to automatically collect high-resolution imagery of green, vegetated areas potentially affected by locusts”

Civilian satellite imaging is being employed. However, advanced imagery is needed to locate more precisely infested and breeding areas. This requires that African nations have access to imagery from military satellites, which would also necessitate that their technicians be properly trained to interpret the data.

The application of electron magnetic pulses and other electromagnetic devices to emit tuned frequencies specifically aimed at killing the locusts should also be utilized in this war against these lethal pests.

An all-out war against the spread of locusts, using all available technologies is required to save the food supply of African nations already suffering from nutrition deficiency. The cost cannot be a factor for inaction. Whether it is $80 million, $100 million or several hundred million dollars: this is a small price to pay to prevent another plague. Compare this relatively minor cost to the obscene amounts of money-billions of dollars-being spent on the US Presidential primaries. The Desert Locust assault on humanity can be arrested, if we act now, with full force!

Transform the Desert

Desert Locusts “are always present somewhere in the deserts between Mauritania and India…ready to mate when conditions are favorable. Eggs are usually laid in areas of bare sandy soil and require previous rainfall,” according to the report, Weather and Desert Locusts.

Since the sands, dry heat, and winds of African deserts create propitious conditions for the breeding and migration of desert locust, why not eliminate-i.e. transform the desert?

Contrary to popular beliefs, the Sahel and Sahara Deserts are not the natural-pristine state of North Africa. The desert was created millions of years ago when the African Plate migrated north, cut off the Tethys Sea and crashed into what is now known as Europe. The Sahara Desert was originally under water. The Sahara also alters itself, from three million square miles of arid sand into a tropical climate with lush vegetation, and waters filled with whales, and hippopotami. This occurs every 20-25,000 years in accordance with the cycle of rotation of our planet’s axis, known as the earth’s wobble. Given that the most recent drying up of the Sahara occurred approximately 5,500  years ago, the rains are not expected to return for another 15-20,000 years. However, we cannot afford to sit by idly for thousands of years suffering the harsh conditions of the desert.

Humankind was fashioned to intervene on our universe, to improve its condition, to enhance the biosphere in which we exist. The concept of the physical universe, that includes the lawful intervention of human creativity, was conceived as the “Noosphere” by the great Ukrainian geologist and scientist of the twentieth century, Vladimir Vernadsky.

The Sahara Desert has been an impediment for Africa’s development throughout hundreds of thousands of years. More recently, this uninhibited desolate expanse of land has become home to numerous violent extremist organizations that have challenged the sovereignty of Mali, and Nigeria’s Borno State.  Military only responses have so far failed to dislodge the terrorists from his region.

Think Big, Bold and in the Future

The physical universe is organized to respond to “noetic” intervention, i.e. humankind’s powers of reason. We should not be sitting on the sidelines watching disasters occur, but rather preventing so called natural catastrophes.

With sufficient density of infrastructure, functioning farms, towns, and cities, can replace mountains of desert sand. Deserts have been conquered in other parts of the world. An East-West railroad across sub-Saharan Africa from the Indian to Atlantic Ocean, which should have been built decades ago, would have already modified the Sahel and Sahara. It would be accompanied by a new platform of energy, trade, and industry that would revolutionize the economies of East and West Africa. A rail link across the Sahara, connecting this newly built East-West railroad to the nations of the Maghreb, and ultimately to Europe, would join the economies of the sub-continent to those of the Eurasian land mass. Sand would be supplanted by concrete and steel.

The desert can be converted into arable land by introducing moisture to this arid territory. Once there is continual penetration of water into the sand, vegetation and growth will occur, eventually altering transpiration cycles. This will cause a change in the volume, and patterns of rainfall.  Tree transpiration is the process by which water is carried through the tree from the roots to small pores on the underside of leaves and released into the atmosphere by evaporation. Trees consuming carbon dioxide and releasing moisture and oxygen, are the “best friends” of human beings and the environment.

Transaqua, a transnational infrastructure project to replenish the shrinking Sahelian Lake Chad to its previous area of 25,000 square kilometers, has been endorsed by the Nigerian government, and is awaiting a feasibility study.  Expanding Lake Chad with an annual flow of billions of cubic meters of water would affect climatic conditions across the Lake Chad Basin, and increase transpiration.

It is also necessary to aggressively move forward with the Pan African Great Green Wall Project (PAGGW), which  focuses on greening a strip of land of 15 km. wide and about 8,000 km. long that  will affect 20 nations including Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Chad, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal and Sudan. PAGGW was adopted by the African Union in 2007 and ratified by member countries in 2010.

Another transnational infrastructure project that complements the Great Green Wall is the Trans Africa Pipeline (TAP). It is the first permanent solution to end devastating drought and increasing desertification across the Sahel region of northern Africa.

TAP is an 8,000 km. long freshwater pipeline that will provide clean, potable drinking water to 28-30 million people in 11 countries of the African Sahel. TAP will construct large-scale desalination plants on the west and east coasts of Africa. Regional tank farms and pumping stations for water storage and distribution would cross the Sahel for the management of the water source, which in turn can create upwards of 280,000 jobs across the Sahel.

The Trans Africa Water Pipeline has an agreement with the Pan African Great Green Wall Initiative, and both together can address 14 of the Sustainable Development Goals, but all member states and relevant stakeholders are needed to bring both projects to fruition.

We cannot impotently watch a pest, a mere insect, damage our human environment, when we have the means to defeat it.

Lawrence Freeman is a Political-Economic Analyst for Africa, who has been involved in the economic development policy of Africa for 30 years. He is the creator of the blog: lawrencefreemanafricaandtheworld.com