Locusts bring hunger, devastation

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

11 September 2020 | Disasters

ELLANIE SMIT

WINDHOEK



Outbreaks of African migratory locusts are threatening the food security and livelihoods of millions of people in Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

This was the warning sounded by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations recently when it launched an emergency response effort to control the locust swarms.

Around seven million people in the four affected countries, who are still recovering from the impact of the 2019 drought and grappling with the economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, could experience further food and nutrition insecurity, it said.

The FAO is working with the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the International Red Locust Control Organisation for Central and Southern Africa (IRLCO-CSA) to support governments to control the locusts. “Even with the control measures already taken, the locusts are still a threat. Some of the worst-affected areas are very difficult to reach,” said Patrice Talla, FAO sub-regional coordinator for Southern Africa.

According to the FAO the migratory locust outbreaks in the SADC region are not linked to the desert locust emergency in Eastern Africa. Locusts are among the most destructive pests in the world.

One swarm can contain tens of millions of adults, and there are currently multiple swarms in the southern 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.



Zambezi

In Namibia, initial outbreaks began in the Zambezi plains, and hopper bands and swarms have now spread to key farming regions.

The Southern Africa Emergency Locust Response and Preparedness Project will focus on an emergency response in locust hotspots and strengthen coordination and information exchange among the affected countries. It will also enable aerial surveillance and mapping activities in hard-to-reach areas, and provide technical support for national locust surveillance and control units that will be established.

The FAO said that its technical cooperation programme allows it to draw from its own regular programme resources to respond to countries' most pressing needs for technical assistance.

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