More than 25 million hectares of cultivated land in the Caucasus and Central Asia (CCA) are potentially threatened by locusts and grasshoppers every year, and infestations have increased by 65 percent since 2006. The three main locust pests (Italian, Moroccan and Asian Migratory locusts) eat all food crops as well as natural vegetation. As such, they are a constant threat to food security and livelihoods, especially for the most vulnerable rural communities: at least 20 million people are highly vulnerable to locust invasions in northern Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, southern Russian Federation, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. Usually, to minimize the damage, large control operations with chemical pesticides are carried out, which can impact both human health and the environment. The situation is further complicated by the fact that locusts are transboundary migrant pests which calls for regional cross-border collaboration between affected countries in order to effectively manage the locust infestations.
In response to requests received from the CCA countries to help with this situation, FAO conducted a comprehensive assessment mission in 2008/09, which collected and updated technical, institutional and legal information on the locust situation and management capacity in each of the ten affected countries. Based on the findings, an analytical report was prepared and then discussed in the Regional Consultation on Locust Management in Caucasus and Central Asia in Kazakhstan, October 2009. All countries unanimously agreed that the only long-term solution to locust transboundary problem is to improve and strengthen both national and regional locust management capacities. This entails adequate preparedness by each country as well as building the capacity to take concerted joint action. The most important immediate result of the Consultation was the endorsement of a Five year Programme, which provides the road-map “Towards better national and regional locust management in Caucasus and Central Asia”. The objective of the Programme is to contribute to food security in CCA by preventing locust damage to crops and rangelands. To do this requires reducing the frequency and intensity of locust upsurges, through control measures using less harmful techniques and pesticides. Funding in support of this Five year Programme is now being sought.
The approach developed in CCA is based on the key principles of preventive control as advocated by the FAO Emergency Prevention System for Transboundary Animal and Plant Pests and Diseases (EMPRES), one of the seven FAO Impact Focus Areas (IFAs). The concept includes capacity-building, early warning and early reaction, environmentally safer control techniques, and particular attention to safe handling of chemical insecticides.
During the Regional Consultation, countries agreed to use new tools such as the standardized Survey and Spray Monitoring forms for regular collection and exchange of locust data. Activities to improve national and regional locust management in CCA started at the end of 2009. Based on field information, national and regional monthly bulletins have been produced and circulated, starting from April 2010. A new bilingual (English and Russian) FAO website for locust in CCA is now on-line and is regularly updated. In addition, technical assistance has been recently provided to two countries. Georgia benefited, first from a mission carried out by FAO in April 2010 (to assess the locust situation), and again in summer 2010 because of unexpected infestations of Moroccan Locust. The emergency assistance included pesticides and equipment, and training on safe pesticide application. Assistance was also provided to Uzbekistan in August 2010 to assess the locust situation in two areas around the Aral Sea and Lake Aydarkul. To stimulate regional cooperation and exchange of experience, a "Regional Workshop on Locust Control" is scheduled in Tajikistan from 18 to 22 October 2010. The focus of this event will be on control techniques and the use of less harmful pesticides.
These achievements are a promising start to improving national and regional management. In order to further develop preventive locust management and to make it a success in CCA, support is needed for current efforts and for the planned Five-year programme.
For more information, please visit the website Locust Watch in Caucasus and Central Asia.
See also the leaflet 'Locusts in Caucasus and Central Asia'