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Ethiopia Sets World Record of Planting More than 350 Million Trees in a Day

353,633,660 tree seedlings were planted in 12 hours

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FILE - An Odaa tree stands in the town of Dukem, Oromia region, Ethiopia, Nov. 1, 2018. Ethiopians planted more than 350 million tree seedlings on July 29, 2019, in what is thought to be a world record. Pixabay

Ethiopians planted more than 350 million trees in one day, officials say, in what they believe is a world record. Ethiopia’s minister of innovation and technology, Getahun Mekuria, tweeted estimates of the number of trees being planted throughout the day Monday. By early evening, he said 353,633,660 tree seedlings were planted in 12 hours.

The massive effort is part of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s Green Legacy Initiative, which aims to plant more than 4 billion trees between May and October, or 40 trees per person.The campaign aims to reverse the effects of deforestation and climate change in the drought-prone country.

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According to the United Nations, Ethiopia’s forest coverage was just 4% in the 2000s, down from 35% a century earlier. Besides ordinary Ethiopians, various international organizations and the business community also joined the exercise, which aims to surpass India’s record planting of 66 million trees in 12 hours in 2017. (VOA)

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New Locust Swarms Threaten Agriculture in Ethiopia

New Swarms of Locusts Threaten Crops, Food Security in Ethiopia

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Locust Ethiopia
An Ethiopian boy attempts to fend off desert locust as they fly in a farm on the outskirt of Jijiga in Somali region, Ethiopia. VOA

A new round of locust swarms has hit Ethiopia and is again threatening crops and food security, say agricultural officials.

Dereje Hirpha, the Oromia region’s head of locust control, tells VOA’s Horn of Africa Service that the new generation of locusts was first reported weeks ago in the Raya district and has since spread across thousands of hectares in 40 districts of the region.

The fast-moving swarm is threatening crops in a country where more than 80 percent of the population depends on agriculture for its livelihood.

Locust Outbreak
A Samburu boy uses a wooden stick to try to swat a swarm of desert locust filling the air, as he herds his camel. VOA

Similar locusts wave hit Ethiopia a year ago.  The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has said it believes heavy rainfall in East Africa has contributed to the growth of locust swarms in the area.

This new generation is arriving from Somaliland, while breeding has continued on both sides of the Red Sea, and in Sudan and Eritrea, according to experts.

USAID plans to work with the U.N. Food  and Agriculture Organization to prevent and control the spread of locusts, its office of communication says.  The agency is training more than 300 pest experts and providing 5,000 sets of protective equipment for locust fighters.

Hirpha says authorities are spraying the affected areas from planes and vehicles on the ground to ward off the pests.

Locals, meanwhile, are engaged in their own combat operation.  When a locust swarm approaches, residents try to scare them away by blowing whistles, drumming empty buckets, setting fires, and shooting into the air.

Locust chasers take position in green areas to disperse the swarms before the descend.

Locust Ethiopia
A man tries to catch locust while standing on a rooftop. VOA

“From a distance the swarm looks like a brown cloud, a sandstorm,” says Sora Kura, one of the chasers in the Borana zone.

The swarm follows the wind direction and is also guided by hairy antenna on their heads that detect smells and other signals of food, Hirpha says. According to the FAO, the swarms can move up to 150 kilometers per day.

USAID says the swarms will likely spread next to southwest Ethiopia and northwestern Kenya, and may enter Uganda and South Sudan.

Desert locusts can comfortably live in a warm, sandy environment like Eastern Ethiopia and Somaliland, Hirpha says.

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Ethiopia has to report any assessment of the crops lost to the pests.  In 2003 and 2005, locust outbreaks in more than 20 countries, mainly in North Africa, cost farmers $3.6 billion, according to the FAO. (VOA)