Migratory locust outbreak in Madagascar may develop into a plague


Madagascar faces threat of major plague of locusts

A massive migratory locust outbreak in southwestern Madagascar may develop into a major plague unless control operations are expanded quickly, warns FAO's Locust Group. FAO has appealed to the donor community for funds totalling US$2 million to purchase the necessary pesticides, rent aircraft and equipment and cover the expenses of ground teams to contain the outbreak.

The Locust Group's Desert Locust Update (March 1997) first reported the continuing infestation of a very large area in the southwest of the country by widely distributed swarms and hopper bands.

According to recent reports from Madagascar, despite intensive control by national authorities, currently available resources are unable to cope with the infestations now said to involve some 2 million hectares. And there is a high risk that further breeding will occur over an increasingly large area.

"If not controlled, such breeding is expected to increase substantially, with the likelihood of invasions of other parts of the country during the spring and a subsequent reinvasion of the south in the autumn of 1997," said FAO. Such movements could pose a major threat to agricultural production in Madagascar.

Desert locust update
Widespread infestations of desert locust hopper bands on Saudi Arabia's Red Sea coastal plains have been reported in the latest FAO Desert Locust Bulletin (No. 223) . Large-scale aerial and ground control operations have been mounted against these infestations, but given their widespread nature and recent favourable breeding conditions, some hopper bands are likely to escape and form new swarms that could pose a threat to nearby countries. These swarms would probably move towards areas of recent rainfall in southwestern Saudi Arabia and adjacent areas of Yemen, while others could move towards the central interior of Saudi Arabia or west across the Red Sea towards Egypt and the Sudan.

No significant infestations were reported from Northwest or West Africa. Breeding conditions remain unfavourable in most of the spring breeding areas of these regions as a result of a lack of rainfall. If further rainfall does not occur, significant breeding is unlikely and the threat to the Sahel of West Africa will be greatly diminished this summer.

17 April 1997

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