Impact on food security and national/regional stability
- The three main locust pests in Caucasus and Central Asia are the Italian Locust (CIT), the Moroccan Locust (DMA) and the Migratory Locust (LMI)*.
- These pests are characterized by their high capacity to multiply, form groups and migrate. They are able to fly over up to 100 km by day and settle new areas over a wide range of habitats.
- During infestations and outbreaks, locusts attack cereal crops, leguminous plants, sunflower, tobacco, vineyard, vegetable, fruit trees and orchards, cotton, rangelands and other plants.
- Over 25 million ha of cultivated areas are under threat. Locusts are indeed the most important menace on agriculture in Caucasus and Central Asia and can cause severe damage at agricultural, economic and social levels. This threat is enhanced since significant areas of formerly arable land were abandoned following independence of the eight former Soviet republics. They became weedy fallows, which favor locust breeding and subsequent number increase.
- At least 20 million people are at risk. The most affected populations are the most vulnerable communities living in the concerned rural areas, whose health and environment can moreover suffer from negative impacts of locust control operations.
- Stability of the relatively young Caucasian and Central Asian republics, in which agricultural production systems are particularly vital, is prone to disturbances by several external pressures, including locust outbreaks. This is particularly true in the current context of food price soaring.
A problem shared at regional level...
- Locusts have a huge distribution area. The most important breeding areas are situated in sagebrush (Artemisia tridentate) steppes for the Italian Locust, in dry steppes and on semi-desert foothills for the Moroccan Locust and in reed stands near lakes, rivers, internal sea banks and coasts for the Migratory Locust.
- Both in Caucasus and Central Asia, borders are located across the traditional locust habitats and breeding areas. In Caucasus (see map), permanent breeding areas of Italian and Moroccan locusts are mainly found in southern Georgia and western Azerbaijan as well as in Armenia, thus along the borders, which cross ecological entities. In Central Asia (see map), Moroccan Locust outbreaks often originate along borders between Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, while traditional Italian Locust breeding areas are located on both sides of the border between Kazakhstan and Russia, and, to a minor extent, towards China. Permanent Migratory Locust habitats are situated near borders between Kazakhstan and its neighboring countries, i.e. Uzbekistan (Aral Sea), Russian Federation and, to a lesser extend, Turkmenistan (Caspian Sea), as well as in some places close to borders with China.
- Because of their migratory nature and location of permanent habitats and breeding areas, locusts frequently cross countries' political borders during their back and forth movements as well as swarm flights. As such, they represent a potential source of tensions between countries.
- Due to their bio-ecological characteristics (adaptability, flexibility and reactivity), locust species are becoming even more dangerous in the context of exceptional weather events associated to climate change. In particular, locust situations deteriorated with frequent droughts in the beginning of the 21st century and outbreaks occurred in several countries since 2006.
*Calliptamus italicus (Linnaeus, 1758);
Dociostaurus maroccanus (Thunberg, 1815);
Locusta migratoria migratoria (Linnaeus, 1758).