Locust plague in Madagascar halted, but at great risk of resurgence
Achievements of FAO and Government of Madagascar threatened by funding gap
2 October 2014, Rome - A locust plague that spread across Madagascar threatening the main staple food crops and pasture in the country has been successfully contained, however, progress is under threat due to a gap in funding, FAO said today.
At the beginning of the plague in April 2012 the highly destructive Malagasy Migratory Locust ravaged crops and pastures on its way from the southwest of the country toward the North. By April 2014, it had spread towards the country’s largest rice crop areas in the northwest and threatened the livelihoods of 13 million people.
Potential for further damage was contained by the first locust control campaign, which is part of a three-year programme jointly executed by FAO and the Government of Madagascar, in close collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.
“The effects of this plague could have been devastating, but thanks to strong efforts by the Government of Madagascar, supported by FAO, we have succeeded in preventing these locusts from migrating even further,” said David Phiri, FAO’s Subregional Coordinator for Southern Africa.
Since locust control actions were initiated in September 2013, large-scale aerial operations have allowed experts to survey over 30 million hectares of land and control locust populations on over 1.2 million hectares.
A total of $28 million has been donated so far by the Governments of Austria, Belgium, France, Italy, Japan, Madagascar through a World Bank loan, Norway and the United States of America as well the European Union and the United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund. Donors also include Algeria, Mauritania and Morocco, which donated pesticides.
Preliminary results of an FAO/WFP assessment mission, conducted between mid-June and mid-July 2014 in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, indicate that the first anti-locust campaign prevented larger damage to crops and pastures and protected the large rice producing regions of the country located in the centre and north.
This first campaign also provided the opportunity to further strengthen national capacities in locust management.
“Despite great support and achievements, however, we now face a new challenge due to a gap in funding,” says Phiri.
More funds needed
Funds available so far are only sufficient to implement the first part of the second locust control campaign, which started in September 2014. With the onset of the rainy season, from October 2014 onwards, the locust situation will deteriorate as seasonal temperatures and humidity at this time are ideal breeding conditions for the locust. The second and third campaigns are imperative to respectively support the decline of the plague and the return to a situation of recession.
Additional support of $14.7 million is urgently needed for aerial surveys, control operations, equipment, pesticides, as well as the recruitment of key staff to carry out the second and third campaigns.
“Each day is a fight to feed our children and send them to school,” says Hantanirina Florentine, who lives in a village near Sakaraha in central Madagascar. “Our main source of income is our 100 square metre plot of land and my husband’s odd jobs. The locust plague affected our livelihood and made our daily life even harder. The locust plague needs to be put to an end, so we can have crops and protect our livelihoods.”
Without added funding, efforts made during the first campaign will be largely lost and the locust plague will expand again. The context was similar in 2010/11 and 2011/12 when the funding for two anti-locust campaigns was not made available and as a result, the current plague developed.
“An immediate food crisis has been avoided,” says Phiri, “but an economical and humanitarian crisis could still threaten Madagascar if the two next campaigns are not implemented in time.”
“We are in a position to help – we just need one last push to stop this disaster and prevent future plagues.”
According to, Roland Ravatomanga, Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development of Madagascar, “The first locust phase was successful thanks to the support of technical and financial partners, but much remains to be done for the second phase in 2014 and 2015. I solemnly appeal to the International Community on behalf of the Government and the Malagasy people for financial and material support to Madagascar. The food and nutrition security of Madagascar depends on it.”