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Emergency locust crisis in Madagascar

01/12/2010Since the last rainy season, an upsurge of the Migratory Locust is underway in Madagascar. The food security and livelihood of nearly half a million Malagasy households is threatened. From May 2010 onwards, locust swarms have progressively moved northwards from the outbreak area in southwest Madagascar to the central part of western Madagascar. Having survived the dry and cool season (July to October), adults have started in early October to fly back towards the southwest where breeding usually commences with the onset of the rainy season, in about mid-October. Three to four generations of breeding can occur during the rainy season, which lasts until April. Locust numbers can increase 10 to 15 fold with each generation. Controlling an upsurge is challenging. If not managed at an early stage, an upsurge can last for years and require hundreds of millions of dollars. A potential locust plague risks to further cripple a country that is struggling with malnutrition, cyclones, political instability and limited humanitarian assistance.

Following a request from the Government of Madagascar for FAO emergency assistance in mid-July 2010, a response strategy was designed together with national partners. This strategy comprises three components: (a) strengthening the national survey and control capacities, (b) minimizing human health and environmental risks, and (c) assessing the impact on crops as well as the locust campaign. The locust campaign covers a nine-month period, from September-October 2010 up to May-June 2011, and relies on aerial survey and control operations. Control operations will use conventional pesticides to protect crops by immediately killing adult locust populations, Insect Growth Regulators that are applied as barriers against hoppers, and biopesticides in protected and environmentally sensitive areas. FAO is coordinating resource mobilization and campaign implementation.

The locust control campaign started in September, funded by the UN’s Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) and FAO’s Technical Cooperation Programme for a total of USD 5.2 million. This allowed all inputs to be in place and dispatched on time. The inputs consisted of two helicopters for survey and control operations, conventional pesticides (110 000 litres), Insect Growth Regulators (18 000 litres), biopesticides (1 500 kg), communication, survey and control equipment, international and national expertise as well as FAO technical assistance, and operating expenses.

Survey and control operations are currently underway. By mid-November, ground and aerial surveys reported only scattered solitary and transiens hoppers, suggesting that the first generation of breeding will be at a smaller scale than expected due to a six-week delay in the onset of seasonal rains. Delayed rains and numerous fires in the traditional breeding areas of the Malagasy Migratory Locust contributed to a reduction in parental populations. In late November, infestations of late instar hopper groups and bands were detected in the eastern part of the outbreak area. The first aerial control operations were carried out using conventional pesticides in full cover treatment due to the nature of the target.

As breeding continues, locust numbers will increase with each new generation. Therefore, it is essential to maintain intensive monitoring and control operations until the end of the campaign. The length of the campaign will depend on the duration of the rainy season, especially if rains continue longer than in most year or if late storms occur, suitability of ecological conditions and related scale of breeding. At present, the cost of the locust campaign is covered until January 2011 only. FAO is therefore seeking urgent support (an additional USD2.6 million) to enable the implementation of the locust campaign until June 2011 and address the aforementioned uncertainties. Through these efforts, FAO will promote effective locust surveillance and control for the current and future emergencies.

For more information, please refer to the Response Strategy and Intervention Framework 2010-2011

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