More West Africa Locust Swarms Coming Soon - Reports
Author: Ibrahima Sylla
Mauritania's locust-fighting body (CLAA) said in its latest bulletin that groups of newly hatched, wingless juveniles known as "hopper bands" were munching up to 40 percent of crops and pastures in affected zones while mature swarms of the airborne pests were busily mating and laying eggs.
"The situation is getting worse day by day due to new hatchings, the growth of hopper bands and the formation of massive new swarms ... in the east and southeast of the country," the CLAA said in the report, seen on Friday.
West Africa's worst locust infestation in 15 years, spreading from the Atlantic coast to eastern Chad, threatens to trigger famine in a region where many people are subsistence farmers and governments lack the means to fight the pests.
Some diplomats fear it may already be too late to stop the pests and say donors might have to provide food aid when shortages hit the already impoverished region.
The Rome-based Food and Agriculture Organization painted a similarly grim picture for West Africa in a report released on Friday, saying new swarms were expected to form in Mauritania, Senegal, Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger during September.
It said "substantial" swarms were expected to appear in the south of Mauritania and a vast area stretching across Mali. It said there was a "high risk" of new swarms forming in the north of Senegal and moving south in October.
Last month, 101,247 hectares in five West African countries were treated with pesticides, but experts who met in Senegal's capital Dakar to form a battle plan last week said 2.3 million hectares were at risk from the marauding pests.
Agriculture ministers meeting in Dakar pledged to wage a military style war on the airborne pests from bases in nine countries and called on donors to equip them with pesticide and planes as quickly as possible.
"Significant crop damage has occurred in several countries. Control operations are underway in all countries but are hampered by insufficient resources," the FAO said.
In Mali, the president and other government members have renounced a month's wages to fund the fight against locusts. The former French colony estimates it needs 8.6 billion CFA francs ($15,800,000) to treat 650,000 hectares.