- Desert locust control operations have been expanded in West Africa, but most countries are still facing serious shortages of pesticides and aircraft, FAO said today. Mauritania, Mali and Senegal remain the worst affected countries, but a total of 13 countries from Cape Verde to Yemen are receiving FAO aid to fight locusts. The WFP warns of threats to local harvests.
Around three to four million hectares of land are now estimated to be infested by locusts in West Africa. Nearly 500,000 hectares have been treated so far in the region this summer. Mauritania - with around 1.6 million hectares infested - Mali, Niger and Senegal are currently the countries most severely affected by the locust upsurge, FAO reports today.
In the past week, several locust swarms moved into northwest Mauritania, one swarm reportedly being over 70 kilometres in length. Locusts also moved to the extreme south of Western Sahara and some ten swarms reached five of the Cape Verde islands. "This indicates that swarms are now starting to move out of areas in the Sahel where vegetation is drying up towards North-west Africa," FAO concluded.
Locust hopper bands and swarms however continue to develop and form in southern Mauritania, northern Senegal, Mali and Niger. Smaller infestations of hopper bands are present in northern Burkina Faso and central and eastern Chad. New swarms were expected to form in these countries in the next few days. Locally severe crop damage has been reported from affected countries.
According to the latest weekly 'Emergency Report' by the World Food Programme (WFP), locusts are currently doing significant damage to the otherwise rich harvests throughout the Sahel, thus endangering food security.
Mali's main production area of paddy rice "is under the threat of swarms," the WFP report said. In Mauritania, it seemed the infestation "has intensified in the agricultural areas." In Senegal, the situation remained "of concern, especially in light of the evolution in the agro-pastoral area," the Ferlo district.
- The harvest period is the most critical moment with regard to the current infestation and there are concerns that a substantial portion of this harvest could be at risk because of the locust threat, the WFP report said, regarding Mauritania, Senegal and Mali.
Control operations are increasing throughout the region. FAO is currently providing assistance to control the spread of the pest in Algeria, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Chad, Eritrea, the Gambia, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Senegal, Sudan and Yemen. Two aircraft have been hired to spray pesticides in Mauritania and two others for Mali. Additional survey and control aircraft are soon to be provided in Chad, Mauritania, Niger and Senegal.
The efforts to control the plague have become a costly affair for the affected countries and FAO. Each affected country has contributed substantially to the locust campaign. FAO, on the other hand, has repeatedly asked for more funds to fight the locusts. Finally, FAO reports, donor funding has significantly increased since Director-General Jacques Diouf called on donors two weeks ago to respond urgently to FAO's appeal.
FAO has now US$ 14.7 million in cash, with a further $40 million of pledged contributions. Around US$ 12 million have been promised by donors but are awaiting confirmation. The UN agency is providing around US$ 6 million from its own resources.
- While these funds, together with the efforts made by the countries affected, will help to step up control operations, more support is urgently needed to protect crops and pasture and extend locust control activities, in particular transport and spraying planes but also helicopters, said Clive Elliott of the FAO Locust Group.
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