After months of preparation, deep learning, and expert consultations, we finally launch the #Locust Innovative Response Initiative (LIRI), a joint initiative with JDC-GRID and S.I.T in early September. Its mission is to identify and develop innovation response mechanisms to empower smallholder farmers, local response teams, and ministries of agriculture with new and innovative solutions in response to locust swarms.
The problem: Smallholder farmers throughout East Africa have virtually no means to prevent the locusts' devastation or protect their crops. More than 25 million hectares of cultivated areas are under threat and at least 20 million people from 30 different countries are at risk, mostly vulnerable rural populations. The situation is particularly worrisome in Ethiopia, Somalia, and Kenya; the United Nations has noted that the region is already vulnerable to food shortages, and warned that the international community only has a small window to prevent “looming catastrophe.”
In response to this grave situation, over the last three months, a team from JDC GRID supported in part by the J Gurwin Foundation, SIT, and the Pears Program for Global Innovation has conducted a series of interviews and discussions with world-leading experts, scientists, innovators, and entrepreneurs in order to identify potential directions for solutions that can help smallholder farmers and their communities face the threat posed by locust swarms.
Over the course of two days in September, LIRI held intensive development meetings with experts, researchers, organizations, and companies interested in honing these ideas further and creating solid proposals for pilot interventions, with participants joining from Europe, the US, East Africa and Israel. We focused specifically on interventions related to Locust swarms forecasting and surveillance and the possibility of catching and processing locusts to be an alternative nutrition source. In the coming months, we will continue to convene experts and practitioners for meetings that will work to develop pathways for testing promising solutions in the field.