As desert locusts ravage African crops, EU-funded NGOs maneuver in the Kenyan parliament to leave farmers defenseless. Caught flat-footed by the emergency, the FAO struggles to purchase enough pesticides to avert catastrophe.

Experts fear it may be too late to avert famine.

The worst locust swarms in 70 years descended on East Africa barely a month ago and have already devoured hundreds of thousands of acres of staple crops throughout the region. Every day, the swarms grow larger and travel further into the African continent. As the crop losses mount, experts fear that this new plague, which is hitting African food systems already challenged by epidemic infestations of Fall Armyworm and numerous other plant diseases, may push the region into famine.

The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) calls the locust invasion an “unprecedented” threat to lives and food security. Oxfam says 25 million people have already been left hungry and malnourished by the swarms.

Incredibly, organic farming activists and EU-funded NGOs are maneuvering in the midst of this crisis to ram legislation though the Kenyan Parliament that would ban the agricultural pesticides necessary to stop the swarms before they multiply beyond control. As of last reports, 200,000 acres in Somalia and Ethiopia have been wiped-out and another 170,000 acres in Kenya are under attack. Uganda and South Sudan may well be next.

Pesticides are the only hope to stop famine

Aerial spraying of pesticides is the only effective way to stop the locusts, and stopping them now in Kenya is critical to preventing the disaster from spreading further. Experts say the swarms could grow 500 times as large by next June and may soon reach 30 countries in Africa and Asia.


But the NGO-sponsored law would make an effective response all but impossible -- canceling registrations for over 200 pesticides that have been approved as safe by Kenyan authorities and by regulators in the US, Canada, Australia and other nations that rely on scientific, internationally accepted risk assessments.

The leading NGO behind the initiative, the Route to Food, was founded as an African political action group in 2016 with tax-payer funds provided by the German Green Party’s Heinrich Boll Foundation. In just a few years, RTF has become a major force in Kenyan politics campaigning against pesticides, GMOs (which it claims are “nutritionally empty”) and advancing Euro-style agricultural fads such as agro-ecology, which condemns modern crop technologies -- along with free markets, trade and even mechanization -- in favor of “peasant” and “indigenous” agriculture.

RTF is joined in the ban campaign by the Kenyan Organic Agricultural Network, an NGO representing organic business interests (Noticeably, the ban proposal doesn’t include organic farmers’ favorite, though highly toxic, pesticide, copper sulfate). KOAN, too, is largely funded by European governments, directly though development agencies such as the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, and the Dutch NGOs SNV and HIVOS (Dutch: Humanistisch Instituut voor Ontwikkelingssamenwerking, Humanist Institute for Cooperation with Developing Countries). HIVOS is also a backer of the notorious Brahmin agroecology advocate and “social justice” warrior Vandana Shiva who was recently condemned by Nobel Laureate Rich Roberts and numerous other leading scientists for her “anti-science and unethical stances.”

Even absent the locust plague, the NGO pesticide ban would devastate food production in Kenya, whose corn farmers have lost up to 70 percent of their staple crop to the Fall Army Worm, which can only be controlled by pesticides and GMO Bt crops. Almost every major crop is threatened, and none would be viable without pesticides. UG99 Wheat Stem Rust has spread throughout East, from Egypt down to South Africa, and jumped across the water to Yemen and Iran. The Cassava Mosaic Virus can destroy up to 80 percent of the crop, Africa’s third largest source of carbohydrates and Western Kenya’s second most important food crop.

Thousands of fungi, nematodes, insects, weeds and other pests make farming in Africa, and everywhere else around the world, impractical and even impossible without pesticides. European elites talk about banning pesticides and replacing modern agricultural production with “agro-ecology”-style organic farming, endlessly promoting the fantasy that organic farmers don’t use pesticides. But all farmers who grow to scale -- including organic farmers -- use pesticides.

The mainstream media, which appears ignorant of this basic fact, was shocked when the French government recently reported that, despite its promises to cut pesticide use in half, pesticide sales had actually increased 21 percent in 2018. There were several reasons for the hike -- including farmers stocking up early on supplies to avoid new pesticide fees -- but a big part of the increase came from a massive surge in the use of organic pesticides like sulfur and copper sulfate.

Copper, in its various compounds, is considered “natural” and thus approved for organic production, but it is highly toxic to people and wildlife, accumulates in the soil, and is a known carcinogen. In 2015, the EU put copper compounds on its list of “candidates for substitution” -- meaning they are “of particular concern to public health or the environment.” The EU would have banned the substances long ago, except that organic growers, who dump them on their fields in truly astounding quantities, couldn’t survive without it.

Europeans are hypocrites, America should not be the same

The hypocrisy in Europe is glaring, but Europe is wealthy enough that it can buy food from abroad when its organic food faddism depresses production at home. Indeed, Europe has been a net importer of food for many years.

The imposition of elitist “agroecology” policies on Africa, however, is proving deadly, and no organization is more complicit than the very FAO that is now scrambling to find enough pesticide to combat the locust plague. For nine years under its Brazilian Director General, José Graziano Da Silva, the FAO diverted its considerable resources ($2.5 billion in 2018) into promoting a highly ideological agroecology agenda in Africa that prohibited the use of GMOs and synthetic pesticides (but of course permitted organic pesticides) and promoted the organic fantasy.

There is nothing wrong with agroecology as it was originally conceived, which is what it sounds like: the study of the overall ecology of agricultural practices. But in the hands of activists, the science has been perverted to be a prescriptive ideology that arbitrarily rules out modern farming technologies and even mechanization (think tractors) and hides a radical agenda hostile to markets, private property, and economic development under the cloak of “social justice” -- though it’s a strange kind of social justice that wants to keep “indigenous peoples” in a perpetual state of bare subsistence. 

Graziano -- who came to FAO after serving in the left wing government of Lula da Silva-- used the resources and prestige of his organization to embrace the most radical political elements of the agroecology movement. With FAO support, groups such as Via Campesia promoted the glories of “peasant farming” and condemned international trade, while others like the Third World Network railed against capitalism itself and defended the Chavez-Maduro Venezuelan regime as it reduced that once wealthy nation to starvation and despair. Inside the organization, Graziano-favorite Miguel Altieri used his perch on the FAO Steering Committee to libel the Green Revolution, which saved a billion people from starvation, as a “failed” project and to politic against private business and free markets.

Otherwise occupied advancing radical politics and discouraging poor African farmers from using the pesticides they desperately need, the FAO somehow neglected to prepare for the current emergency. The natural, organic world of their fantasies is now covering East Africa in a cloud of destruction and death, and FAO’s 2.5 billion dollars somehow don’t seem to be enough to buy the planes and pesticides needed to stop the infestation.

FAO’s new Director General, Qu Dongyu of China, elected last June, has promised reforms. Let’s hope they come soon, and that they are not too late.