- The locust situation in West Africa is now described as "extremely critical" as the first desert locust swarms have moved from their spring breeding areas in North-West Africa to several Sahelian countries, specifically Mauritania, Senegal and Mali. A larger international assistance was now "urgently needed" to avoid a full-scale locust plague in the entire Sahel.
The UN's food and agriculture agency, FAO, today issued a warning that the locust plague in North-West Africa now is spreading into the entire Sahel, a chronically food insecure region. "Many more swarms" were expected in Mauritania, Senegal and Mali, "as well as in Niger and Chad in the coming weeks," the UN agency warned.
As summer rains have already started in the Sahel, egg-laying was now likely to occur within a vast area that stretches from the Atlantic coast in Mauritania to Chad. This could even extend further into Darfur in western Sudan. "A dramatic increase in locusts could threaten crop production during the coming months," FAO said, calling for additional international assistance.
- Additional international aid is urgently needed to supplement the major efforts already made, in particular by the countries concerned, and to prevent the situation from developing into a plague, the FAO statement said.
The current desert locust upsurge was reported to be "the most serious since the last plague of 1987-89." The total costs of that locust plague amounted to more than US$ 300 million and control operations were carried out in 28 countries.
Due to the size and number of the current locust infestations, effective control could by now only be carried out by conventional pesticides. Almost 10 million acres - 4 million hectares - have been treated so far in Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Libya and Mauritania. The most environmentally friendly products possible were however used.
The locust invasion in the Sahel comes as the normally food insecure region is expecting good harvests and a "satisfactory" overall food supply situation. The good harvests expected this year are however seriously threatened by the desert locusts, which can do off with richly yielding fields within a matter of days.
- Control operations remain severely hampered by lack of resources, FAO warns. So far, US$ 9 million of emergency assistance has been pledged, from FAO directly and from donor nations. In addition, each affected country has contributed substantially to the locust campaign. Further funds from foreign donors were now "urgently" needed to prevent a disaster.
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