Desert Locust infestations pose threat to agricultural production in Sahel
Desert Locust are posing a serious threat to agricultural production across the Sahel region in Western Africa this year. FAO’s latest Desert Locust Bulletin1/ reports the continued movement of swarms from northwest Africa into Mauritania, Senegal, Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso, where eggs have been laid and already have hatched in parts to form numerous hopper bands during August. Damage to pasture, cereals and vegetables has been reported in these countries. Some mature swarms were also reported to have reached Chad and the Cape Verde Islands. By the end of August the first generation of summer swarms were starting to form in Mauritania, and many more swarms are expected to form throughout the Sahel during September and October. Control operations are underway but need strengthening to prevent the situation from worsening.
Agriculture is the mainstay of the economy in the Sahel and a locust plague could have devastating effects not only on food production, but also on agricultural exports and rural incomes. In Mauritania for example, agriculture produces 20 percent of GDP and accounts for 60 percent of employment. The country already faces a tight food situation due to three consecutive years of drought (which necessitated emergency food assistance to 420 000 people in 2003) and the depreciation of the Ouguiya (the national currency), which led to a significant increase in food prices. The food security and poverty impacts of severe locust damage on a national scale would be tremendous, since the rural population whose coping strategies have been exhausted has become very vulnerable to production shocks. In Mali, the economy is dominated by agriculture, which accounts for about 40 percent of GDP, with 80 percent of the population dependent on the rural sector. In addition to its potential disastrous food security impact, large scale damage to crops may have severe macroeconomic and poverty consequences, since cotton, which is the main foreign exchange earners of the country, is the main source of income for millions of farmers and contributes up to 45 percent to total exports. In Niger, over 85 percent of the population depend on farming for its survival and agriculture accounts for 40 percent of GDP; large scale damage to crops would have disastrous food security and economic consequences, notably for the poor 60 percent. Several countries have appealed for international assistance, which is urgently needed to prevent a potentially disastrous food security situation and a possible reversal of the economic gains made in recent years in the Sahel region.
1. The FAO Desert Locust Bulletin is issued monthly, supplemented by Updates during periods of increased Desert Locust activity, and is distributed by fax, e-mail, FAO pouch and airmail by the Locusts and Other Migratory Pests Group, AGP Division, FAO, 00100 Rome, Italy. It is also available on the internet. Telephone: +39 06 570 52420 (7 days/week, 24hr) Facsimile: + 39 06 570 55271 E-mail:email@example.comInternet: www.fao.orgDLIS:www.fao.org/news/global/locusts/locuhome.htm