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Responding to early warnings

Summary of published research1

Desert locust

An article on the failure of early warning systems (EWS) to elicit response cites recent experiences in Niger and southern Africa as cases in point. On 20th of October 2003, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) warned that desert locusts would cause damage in Niger and appealed for help. However, funds were not forthcoming until the plague was well underway and the FAO were still short of US $17 million of their needs in May 2004. The locust invasion, the biggest in 15 years, combined with an early end to the rainy season, caused poor harvests - worse than the annual hungry season and led directly to the famine that began in January 2005.

While FAO forecasts desert locust outbreaks, there are few EWSs for other pests. The UK Department for International Development (DFID) has sponsored three early warning systems across the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region:

In contrast to Niger, policymakers in Southern Africa do act against migrant pests and heed warnings, saving large quantities of crops. Estimates from Southern Africa suggest that current quelea control programmes save at least 100 million rand's worth of wheat crops each season.

The article suggests that there are several possible reasons as to why policymakers, donors and national governments seldom take serious notice of early warning systems:

Sorghum damaged by quelea

The new UN Central Emergency Response Fund promises to have funds available to facilitate fast delivery of coordinated donor aid to crisis areas. Time will tell as to what difference this makes.

See further information at the following links:

FAO Desert Locust alert, www.fao.org/ag/locusts/common/ecg/241_en_24019_en.htm

The SADC Quelea breeding forecast for Southern Africa, www-web.gre.ac.uk/directory/NRI/quel

Information Core for Southern African Migrant Pests, http://icosamp.ecoport.org

Show footnotes

1Cheke. R (2006).Responding to early warnings. Id21 insights #61, April 2006, pp 8

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Reference this page

Responding to early warnings. Field Exchange 29, December 2006. p7. www.ennonline.net/fex/29/earlywarnings