October 2003, Rome -- Desert Locust outbreaks in
Mauritania, Niger and Sudan may locally threaten crops, FAO said
on Monday, issuing an alert to inform affected governments and
the international donor community.
Locusts outbreaks were reported in areas of north-western
Mauritania, northern Niger and and north-eastern Sudan, FAO
Swarms of the migratory insect can
devastate crops as they fly in great numbers in search of food.
"The number of locusts is
increasing rapidly. They are beginning to concentrate themselves
into groups characteristic of an outbreak," FAO's
Locust Group said, "We need to address the problem now,
before the situation deteriorates."
Desert locusts are normally solitary, scattered
insects but when climatic conditions are favourable, for example
after good rains and a mild temperature, they can rapidly
increase in number.
As the rainy season
ends and green areas shrink locusts tend to group together in
the few remaining green vegetation and start to change
appearance and begin behaving as a group.
After several years of drought, exceptional rains in
Mauritania have allowed the Desert Locusts to breed and increase
in number, FAO said.
Vegetation had dried
out much quicker than expected in the country, causing locusts
to concentrate in three main areas in Western and central
When they begin to take on
group characteristics young, wingless locusts, known as
"hoppers", march together in search of food.
They develop into adult, winged insects
that form swarms which may contain tens of millions of insects,
stretch across kilometres and travel great distances, crossing
situation has the potential to develop rapidly and it could be a
matter of weeks," the Locust Group said, "We
must immediately boost the number of surveys, the level of
monitoring and prepare for expanded intervention."
In Mauritania control operations have
covered several hundred hectares of land so far and additional
teams have been sent to the field, bringing the total to five
survey teams including two motorized control teams with
locusts have been reported at a density of up to 20 hoppers per
square metre and in Sudan, where five aircraft are on standby,
mature adult locust swarms have been seen along the Atbara
river, some of which were laying eggs.
"If the situation worsens this migratory pest
may move northwards across northern Mauritania into Morocco,
from Sudan towards the Red Sea and from Mali and Niger into
Southern Algeria," the Locust Group