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New locust threat in Madagascar

Funds, material urgently needed for new campaign

Photo: ©FAO/Yasuyoshi Chiba
Locust swarm in southwestern Madagascar.
21 June 2011, Rome - A current buildup of locust populations in southwestern Madagascar could turn into a plague and seriously endanger the livelihoods of 13 million people unless a new campaign is launched to contain the crop-devouring insects, FAO said today. 


According to latest estimates on the ground some 300 000 ha of locust-infested territory needs to be treated from November 2011 to May 2012 at a cost of $7.6 million.

“We must break the locust population dynamics in order to prevent further developments that could affect the island for years and seriously impact on the livelihoods of two thirds of the population, or 13 million people,” said FAO Locust Officer Annie Monard, who is coordinating anti-locust operations in Madagascar. 

Locust upsurge

Since August 2010 FAO, together with the United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) and USAID has been helping the Malagasy Locust Control Centre (CNA) contain populations of Malagasy Migratory Locusts following an upsurge in March of last year.

After training and formation of national teams, anti-locust operations were concentrated in the months from October 2010 to April 2011, corresponding to the rainy season and the locust breeding period. Some 200 000 hectares (ha) infested by locusts were sprayed by helicopter while ground-based control measures were deployed over 27 000 ha and are continuing. 

The 2010-2011 campaign was based on a three-part action plan providing for: strengthening of national survey and control capacities; protection of human health and the environment; and evaluation of the campaign and of locust impact on food security. 

Biopesticide

In addition to conventional pesticides, a biopesticide based on a fungus that is lethal to locusts and grasshoppers was used for the first time on a large scale. 

While such efforts prevented the 2010 locust upsurge escalating into a plague, with disastrous consequences on crops and livelihoods, weather and ecological conditions in the first half of this year triggered a renewed buildup of locust populations over large parts of southwestern Madagascar.

Funds, $7.6 million, are urgently needed to launch a new campaign of locust-infested territory treatment to coincide with the next rain and breeding period (November 2011-May 2012). 

“We must respond quickly to this locust upsurge,” said Monard. “Preventive control is the best and most cost-effective way of dealing with locusts in a sustainable manner.”

In parallel with the emergency campaign, FAO is also about to start a two-year project funded by the French Development Agency AFD in order to help Madagascar prepare a longer-term locust contingency plan.