In 2020, swarms of desert locusts descended on northern Kenya in the country's worst locust infestation in 70 years.

They ate crops and threatened the food security of 3 million people. Locusts brought similar devastation to some of the poorest countries in Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia, as governments and communities braced for the COVID-19 pandemic.

Why did this rare and widespread (and ongoing) infestation occur? The extent and intensity of this locust plague have been linked to climate change – the result of powerful cyclones in the Arabian Peninsula and heavy rains vegetating normally dry areas where locusts breed.

Cyclonic winds helped the surging swarms travel to East Africa. Even as Kenya and other countries grappled with the pandemic, climate change added another layer of risk – and one that is expected to intensify in the future and hit the most vulnerable people the hardest.

Today, after 25 years of progress reducing global poverty, we are at a precarious moment. Poverty is on the rise.

A version of this article appears in the print on April 13, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.