AGP is helping build countries’ capacity to cope with various locust species such as the Desert Locust, Migratory Locust, Italian and Moroccan Locust that pose a major threat to agricultural production in many parts of the world.
These insects, particularly the Desert Locust, are highly mobile and move in large swarms across great distances, and can eat their own body weight each day in the form of crops and green vegetation. A very small part of an average swarm eats the same amount of food in one day as about 2 500 people.
The transboundary nature of the threat requires a common regional strategy of close cooperation and information-sharing between the affected countries in order to effectively keep this dangerous pest at bay and to prevent major crop losses.
FAO Locust Group expertsvisited various locust affected countries in the Near East, East Africa, Central Asia and South East Asia during 2007 and the first quarter of 2008 namely: namely: Armenia, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, East Timor, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Georgia, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Sudan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, The Russian Federation and Yemen, to support in their fight against the locust threat.
A recent example of AGP moving swiftly to provide emergency support in the face of huge infestations of the Desert Locust was in Yemen, Sudan, Eritrea and Ethiopia in 2007, when the countries faced the worst Desert Locust outbreaks for decades.
Most of the population in these countries is living below the poverty line, working in marginal and small-scale agricultural, livestock and honey production and is particularly vulnerable to the locust threat.
AGP secured US$ 2.4 million from the UN’s Central Emergency Response Fund and US$ 1.9 million from Japan to provide rapid assistance and support interventions in remote areas, stemming the outbreaks before they could damage agricultural production. AGP also helped to secure considerable support to Yemen and Eritrea from Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia supported 40 vehicles, 10,000 litres of pesticides, 50 Knapsack sprayers of the FAO transboundary pest programme in action. Assistance to Eritrea inclided vehicles and vehicle mounted sprayers (total value around US$ 1.7 million). AGP has also helped incorporate the use of more environmentally friendly pesticides 'such as Green Muscle (TM) (metarhizium anisopliae var. acrcidum).
Another example was Timor-Leste where AGP provided technical support for largescale biopesticide spraying operations against the Migratory Locust, following a large upsurge in swarms.
The EMPRES Desert Locust programme in Northwest Africa continues to gain momentum. In Mauritania and Mali autonomous Locust Control Centres have been established and provided with substantial national budgets, which is a significant step towards being prepared at any moment to react rapidly to the onset of Desert Locust outbreaks. Also in Niger and Chad concrete steps have been undertaken along similar lines.
Currently it is planned to establish a three to five-year regional multi-donor project in Central Asia, focusing on information exchange among countries, common strategy for locust management early-warning systems, capacity-building, introduction or development of environmentally friendly control techniques such as biopesticides, joint activities such as surveys, development of new technologies such as remote sensing, and improved pesticide management and information awareness.