Date Posted: August 13th, 2012
Farmers in West Africa are bracing for an infestation of desert locusts. Swarms of the insects arrived in the north of Niger and Mali in June, threatening pasture and croplands.
Experts and farmers now fear that locust numbers will increase further. Keith Cressman is the UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) Senior Locust Forecasting Officer. He explains, “Rains have already fallen in northern Niger and Mali. This will provide good breeding conditions and the possibility for a second generation in which large numbers of locusts could arise.” He warns that these swarms could threaten harvests in West Africa’s Sahel region.
He says, “If you can imagine that a locust swarm has billions of insects … a small part of a single swarm can eat the same amount of food in one day as about 2,500 people.” He explains that if there are a number of swarms in one country, this can have a very significant impact not only on agricultural production, but also on the country’s food security.
Ground teams in Niger have treated 1,200 hectares against the pest since the beginning of June. However, in northern Mali control operations cannot be carried out because of political conflict. Survey efforts must rely on an informal information network of local inhabitants and nomads.
Niger, Mali and other Sahelian countries have trained locust survey and control teams. But funding is needed in emergencies to expand their capacity to respond on a large scale and for logistical support such as vehicles, communication equipment and pesticide delivery. Lack of equipment is particularly acute in Mali, where more than 30 pickup trucks and other locust equipment were recently looted in the northern part of the country.
National action plans have been developed in Mali, Niger and Chad. In addition to efforts made by the affected countries, FAO has appealed for US$10 million to maintain and expand operations. So far, France has pledged 850,000 Euros and discussions are ongoing with four other donors for an additional US$4 million.
For more information, see FAO’s Desert Locust Watch pages: http://www.fao.org/ag/locusts/en/info/info/index.html
Another recent news report: http://www.voanews.com/content/mali-niger-locusts-17jul12/1418085.html
Previous FRW Notes to broadcasters on locusts: http://weekly.farmradio.org/2009/01/19/notes-to-broadcasters-on-locusts-2/