Locust plague threatens to trigger severe food crisis in Madagascar
Locusts have already infested over half of the island nation’s cultivated land and pastures
26 June 2013, Rome – Madagascar is in the grips of a largely uncontrolled locust plague and risks a serious food crisis. A large-scale emergency control campaign urgently requires a minimum of $22 million in funding to start in time for the next crop planting season in September. So far, FAO emergency appeals for Madagascar remain severely underfunded.
By September, FAO expects that two-thirds of the country will be infested by locusts.
Some 13 million people’s food security and livelihoods are at stake, or nearly 60 percent of the island’s total population. Nine million of those people are directly dependent on agriculture for food and income.
Sounding the alarm – more loudly
FAO has issued various warnings since August 2012 calling for financial support.
FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva emphasized that prevention and early action are key. “If we don’t act now, the plague could last years and cost hundreds of millions of dollars. This could very well be a last window of opportunity to avert an extended crisis,” he said.
Timely control of the locust upsurge in Madagascar at an early stage would have cost $ 14.5 million in 2011-1012, but FAO only received half the funding necessary. Another campaign had to be launched, but that received barely a quarter of the required funds in 2011/2012.
When the Sahel region experienced a locust upsurge in 2003-2005, the costs of control operations exceeded $ 570 million, in addition to the economic damages in terms of lost crops and food aid.
Preventive control measures normally cost $3.3 million per year for the 10 affected Sahelian countries. So intervening only when the situation reaches a crisis point cost roughly the same as 170 years of prevention.
In order to have all the supplies and personnel in place to mount a wide-scale anti-locust campaign starting in September, funding should be allocated by July. FAO’s locust control programme needs to be fully funded in order to monitor the locust situation throughout the whole contaminated area and to carry out well-targeted aerial control operations. Otherwise, undetected or uncontrolled locust populations will continue to breed and produce more swarms. The plague would therefore last several years, controlling it will be lengthier and more expensive and it will severely affect food security, nutrition and livelihoods.
The complete three-year programme, which is needed to return the locust plague to a recession, requires more than $41.5 million over the next three years.
According to a recent FAO assessment mission on the impact of the current locust plague in Madagascar, in parts of the country rice and maize losses due to the locusts vary from 40 to 70 percent of the crop, with 100 percent losses on certain plots.
A joint Crop and Food Security Assessment Mission, supported by FAO, IFAD and WFP and in close cooperation with the Malagasy Government, is currently on the ground to measure the locust plague’s damages to food security and livelihoods. More detailed data analysis will be available in July, but the resources to start preparation for the field actions have to be available now.
Major impact on food security
According to FAO estimates, there could be losses in rice production of up to 630 000 tonnes, or about 25 percent of total demand for rice in Madagascar. This would severely affect food and nutrition security and livelihoods of the most vulnerable.
Rice is the main staple in the country, where 80 percent of the population lives on less than a dollar per day. One and a half million hectares will need to be treated by aerial spraying during the 2013/2014 campaign.
The three-year FAO programme includes:
- improving the monitoring and analysis of the locust situation;
- large-scale aerial and ground spraying and related training;
- monitoring and mitigating the effect of control operations on health and the environment;
- measuring the impact of anti-locust campaigns and the damages to crops and pasture.