Locust swarms invade Zambezi

Crops in jeopardy as pests multiply

02 March 2020 | Agriculture

Swarms of red locusts have invaded the Zambezi Region, sparking fears they will gobble up swathes of crops that are at different stages of growth.

Agriculture ministry executive director Percy Misika said the presence of migratory locusts was reported on 21 February in Ibbu, Ngala, Muyako and Ihaha.

“Following these reports, the spraying team based at the Bukalo agricultural development centre visited the areas and confirmed the presence of the locusts in the grazing areas of the flood plains of the Chobe River.”

Misika said the migratory locusts are reported to have migrated from Botswana.

Namibia is the second country in Southern Africa to report the presence of the migratory pests after Botswana.

Misika said the locust outbreak is now reported to be affecting farmer fields across the entire southern areas of the Zambezi Region, and has spread up to Kapani.

“The crops in these areas are at different growth stages, from germination, vegetative, flowering to the tasselling stages and are highly susceptible to pest damage,” he said.

According to him Locusta migratoria is one of the most widespread locusts and occurs throughout Africa.

These insects are usually solitary, but under certain circumstances they become more abundant and change their behaviour and habits.

Under suitable conditions of drought, followed by rapid vegetation growth, they breed abundantly and become nomadic, and their populations increase at a rapid pace.

According to Misika they form bands of wingless nymphs that later become swarms of winged adults.

“Both bands and swarms move around and rapidly, strip fields and cause damage to crops and pastures.”

Misika said adults can travel long distances of up to 150 kilometres a day, consuming most of the green vegetation wherever the swarm settles.

The ministry has intensified awareness campaigns in order to educate farmers on control measures.

“Farmers and the general public are urged to be on the alert and report any presence of swarms to the nearest office of the directorate of agricultural production, extension and engineering or any other office under the agriculture ministry countrywide.”

Meanwhile, the department of agriculture in South Africa last week also confirmed an outbreak in Namibia and South Africa's north-western Karoo region.

The outbreak of brown locusts was confirmed in the department's weekly newsletter published on its website.

It, however, stressed that the outbreak is not linked to the unprecedented invasion of desert locusts in East Africa.

The outbreak of brown locusts (Locustana pardalina) in Namibia and the Karoo region of South Africa, specifically in the De Aar area, was confirmed following interaction with the South African resource conservation directorate of the department of agriculture, South African farmers and authorities in Namibia. South Africa's agriculture department said the brown locust becomes a major pest when there are sporadic outbreaks as a result of conducive climatic conditions. The outbreaks often originate in areas such as southern Namibia, middle Botswana and the Karoo.

The aim is to control the outbreak soon after hatching or when the locusts are still in the hopper stage in an effort to prevent the development of flying swarms.

ELLANIE SMIT