- The government of Guinea-Bissau has received an aid offer from the former colonial masters in Portugal, totalling US$ 332,000 to fight the current locust plague in the country. Locusts started invading Guinea-Bissau from southern Senegal on 19 December and have now spread as far south-west as the Bijagos archipelago.
Guinea-Bissau is not usually hit by locust invasions, but last year's extraordinary plague in the Sahel has moved southwards to the green landscapes south of the Sahel as the dry season has arrived. Bissau-Guineans were thus both frightened and unprepared when the "Biblical plague" hit them by surprise last month.
The locusts already constitute a real threat to the fragile economy of the country and the region. In Guinea-Bissau, the plague came just as the cashew trees were flowering, posing a threat to the country's major cash crop. Fields of cassava and vegetables and mango trees have also been attacked. Further, if the locust swarms survive the Sahelian dry season in this area, they could head back to the Sahel when the vegetation returns there later this year.
Focus on fighting the desert locusts in Guinea-Bissau is therefore increasing, by local authorities and by the international community. Portugal thus has decided to finance most of the operations targeting the locusts in Guinea-Bissau, which have already started.
According to the Portuguese Ambassador in Bissau, the Lisbon government reacted to an appeal issued by the Prime Minister of Guinea-Bissau, Carlos Gomes Júnior, asking for international help to fight the locust plague. Ambassador José Manuel Pais Moreira said that the funding was a special response to an emergency situation and that the funds would be administered by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).
FAO representative in Bissau, Sotondji Dazobgo, says that an assessment mission that recently had visited the country recommended a terrestrial attack on the locusts in stead of aerial spraying. This, he said, was due to "secondary risk factors" such as the contamination of fields, rivers, wells and domestic animals.
According to Bissau-Guinean Agriculture Minister Joăo de Carvalhao, a terrestrial attack on the locust swarms in already in preparation. Five pick-up trucks equipped with spraying gear and pesticides arrived in Guinea-Bissau from Senegal on Wednesday to help control swarms of locusts which are damaging cassava fields and cashew trees in the north and east of the country.
Minister de Carvalhao expressed his gratitude towards the Portuguese funding of the ongoing FAO operation. Portuguese and Bissau-Guinean authorities agreed the amount should cover all costs of the operation. FAO representative Dazobgo however expected that further donations would be necessary to fight the locust plague in Guinea-Bissau.
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