My primary school teacher told me that grasshoppers make their noise through rubbing their legs, rather than through their mouth. This was something a younger version of me could fact check and catching grasshoppers became a game. As I started to work with farmers overseas one of the pieces of information that intrigued me was that the only difference between the locusts that we see on the news and the grasshoppers in those areas is that the locusts live together in swarms. They are just grasshoppers who have a lot of food available and so live together rather than living as individuals.

And the swarms are huge.  One recorded swarm is 37 miles long and 25 miles wide — that’s more than twice the size of Paris. A swarm this size, in one day, would eat as much food as the population of France. These swarms can travel 100 miles in a day and contain 40-80 million locusts. Locust swarms described in the Old Testament didn’t seem this fearsome.

The main locust outbreak at the moment is of the Desert Locust species. Usually this species exists as grasshoppers in the Saudi peninsular. There is not a lot of food for them there to sustain a large population. However, because of unusually high rainfall, there has been an abundance of food for the grasshoppers and their population has grown and developed into a locust swarm.

Locusts are not strong fliers, they utilize the wind to take them to new areas. The swarms first spread to Yemen. Due to the civil conflict and focus on humanitarian relief little attention was paid to controlling the locusts. SO their numbers grew AND GREW as they feasted and were then blown across the Indian Ocean to Pakistan. But because of tensions across the Pakistan-India border, where the locusts settled, the two countries were not able to undertake any aerial spraying of the locusts. When they spread to areas where they could be sprayed one official remarked, after spraying, that ‘the density of locusts in the swarms is so high that a 10 to 15-centimeter layer of dead locusts forms on the ground after spraying’.

A change of wind in the Saudi peninsular has taken other swarms of locusts south to Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, South Sudan, Uganda. These swarms continue to grow and are likely to get a boost when the rain season starts in East Africa. The next generation of locusts are about the hatch and their voracious appetite will further damage potential harvests in the region.

This may not be the number one priority on the British news these days. However, livelihoods are being wrecked across two continents and human actions affecting the climate and conflicts are magnifying the impact of the locusts. Efforts are being made to increase control of the locusts through aerial spraying, the use of drones and one story mentioned using ducks to eat the locusts. As yet we do not know how many will suffer and in what ways, I saw an estimate of 19 million people being affected, at this stage we just don’t know.

Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)

Thursday 6th February marked the International Day of Zero Tolerance for female genital mutilation (FGM) and this year saw renewed commitment by the UK government to increase efforts to stop the practice. But what is FGM?  Female genital mutilation is defined as the removal of part or all of the female genitalia for non-medical reasons. It is also called female circumcision and cutting. The procedure is mostly done to girls between birth and 15 years.  There is no health benefit to the procedure.

This map shows the legal status of laws against FGM worldwide, click to ernlarge.

FGM is practised in 30 countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia, but four countries (Egypt, Ethiopia, Nigeria, and Sudan) account for about 42 percent of all cases. It is sobering to think that an estimated 200 million women have already suffered FGM and that in the United Kingdom,  there are more than 100,000 women in the UK living with the consequences of it.  

The map below shows FGM distribution in Africa by country, click to enlarge.

FGM is a violation of girls’ bodies and of their human rights, causing  harm and putting their lives at risk. 

The procedure can leave girls with lifelong physical and psychological trauma.  In many countries, girls at risk of FGM are more  likely to suffer child marriage, die during pregnancy, or contract HIV.

FGM is a violation of girls’ bodies and of their human rights, causing  harm and putting their lives at risk.  The procedure can leave girls with lifelong physical and psychological trauma.  In many countries, girls at risk of FGM are more  likely to suffer child marriage, die during pregnancy, or contract HIV.

Reassuringly there has been a downward trend in the practice in recent years. Nowadays, girls are now a  third less likely to be cut than in previous years, it seems that for many attitudes are changing.  However,  that still leaves us with the following statistic: Every seven seconds, a girl somewhere in the world still suffers FGM.

Sarian’s story:

At the tender age of 11, Sarian  underwent FGM in Sierra Leone.  She actually underwent the procedure twice — forcibly both times — because the first attempt was botched due to the cutter being drunk.  I am not big on social media, but I do urge you to watch a 2 minute video on the following link to hear Sarian’s story first hand:
Despite her horrifying experience, Sarian is now a brave and fervent anti-FGM campaigner.  

The UK is the largest single donor supporting the end of FGM globally, helping 10,000 communities across Africa to abandon.  But the fight is not an easy one.  Although laws can be changed, changing attitudes and deeply held belief systems is an uphill challenge.  However, it is a challenge that we cannot ignore and we cannot shy away from because girls should never have to fear being subjected to FGM.  

Andrew and Valerie Ward - Faith and Justice Spokespersons



Faith and Justice Spokesperson

I am delighted to say that Andrew and Valerie Ward have kindly agreed to take on this important role.  Both Andrew and Valerie work in various areas of development and we will be hearing about this in due course.
Andrew and Valerie, and their three children, Sasha, Tiago and Imani. are very much part of our Church and I am delighted that they have agreed to do this as we will all benefit enormously from their input. 

Contact: Andrew Ward  07900 017394