Caterpillar plague wreaks havoc in Liberia

Caterpillar plague wreaks havoc in Liberia

22/01/2009

Huge hordes of ravenous caterpillars have appeared in northern Liberia destroying crops and vegetation, sending terrified villagers fleeing from their homes, and raising the spectre of a food, health and environmental emergency in West Africa.

FAO Representative in Liberia Winfred Hammond, an entomologist, described the situation in Liberia as a national emergency and said unless the invasion was quickly contained it was "very likely" to escalate into a regional crisis involving neighbouring Guinea, Sierra Leone and Côte d'Ivoire.

The two- to three-cm-long caterpillars, described by villagers as "black, creeping and hairy", are advancing in the tens of millions, devouring all plants and food crops in their path and in some cases overrunning homes and buildings. They pose a major threat to the already precarious food security situation in Liberia and the sub-region.