Locust outbreak worsens

A single swarm can eat as much in one day as 2 500 people, demolishing crops and livestock pastures in a matter of hours.

20 October 2020 | Agriculture

ELLANIE SMIT

WINDHOEK



An outbreak of African migratory locusts has worsened, with the entire Zambezi Region now affected.

This is according to regional governor Lawrence Sampofu, who said if the outbreak is not brought under control before rains in the region start, farmers will not be able to plough their lands and plant crops.

Swarms of red locusts invaded the region on 12 August.

Agriculture deputy minister Anna Shiweda on Friday said more than 400 000 hectares have been invaded by the locusts, while more than 5 000 hectares of grazing had been destroyed.

Teams were deployed to combat the outbreak through various pesticide spraying methods, however, there has since been a resurgence in other parts of Zambezi.



Agriculture potential at risk

Speaking at the commemoration of World Food Day in Ohangwena on Friday, Shiweda said Namibia's agriculture potential as a tool to promote food security and fight poverty is at risk from the effects of the locust outbreak and the coronavirus pandemic.

“For the past years, Namibia's crop production system has experienced outbreaks of a number of transboundary plant pests and diseases, with the fall armyworm having been the latest to be introduced in 2017 and the African migratory locust in 2020.” She said climate change is believed to be the major driver of these outbreaks, which are due to changes in weather patterns that create a conducive environment for the spread of new pests and diseases. This is the second outbreak of red locusts in Zambezi this year, following an earlier outbreak in February.



Great concern

“The pest has spread from its traditional breeding areas in the Okavango delta, Chobe wetlands and the Zambezi plains into new areas. The growing number of locust hotspots and spread is of great concern, given the threat to irrigated crops as well as to the main planting season, which is imminent. Efforts to control hopper bands and swarms remain challenging,” she said. Shiweda said the threat from the locust outbreak can have a multiplier effect on the already precarious food and nutrition security situation in the country.

According to her, it is a well-known fact that locusts cause serious food and nutrition insecurity and loss of livelihoods through damage to crops and grazing. One swarm can contain tens of millions of adults, and there are currently multiple swarms in the region.

A single swarm can eat as much in one day as 2 500 people, demolishing crops and livestock pastures in a matter of hours, she said.



Spraying continues

Sampofu said while spraying methods are continuing, it is difficult because communities have to be informed when spraying is taking place, as the pesticides are harmful and cattle have to be moved from the area.

“These pests are eating everything green - grass, vegetables, gardens, crops, everything,” he said. He stressed that if it is not contained, the outbreak can cause a food security problem in the region.

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