Locust invasion threatens summer crops in Sahel countries
Affected countries report large number of swarms - international support urgently needed
5 August 2004, Rome -- While large locust swarms continue to arrive in West African countries, the locust situation is returning to normal in Algeria, Libya, Morocco and Tunisia, FAO said today.
FAO urged donor countries to provide additional funds in support of massive national locust control operations.
Many affected countries do not have sufficient resources to control swarms and avoid serious crop losses this summer, FAO warned.
Aircraft, pesticides, vehicles, sprayers and technical support are lacking in all affected countries.
"Donor support is urgently needed for targeted ground and aerial spraying and for environmental monitoring," the UN agency said.
FAO added that donors such as the European Community, Italy, Norway, South Korea, Spain, the United States, and FAO itself have provided about $9 million to the affected countries, either directly or through FAO.
A further $10 million is in the pipeline, but there is still a very large shortfall of funds to continue the campaign until the end of the summer locust breeding season in October.
At a recent ministerial meeting in Algiers involving the nine locust-affected countries in western Africa, two scenarios were drawn up, costed at $58 million and $83 million, depending on the degree to which the situation may deteriorate.
The summer season will be critical in determining how the locust upsurge develops, FAO said.
In the past weeks, large swarms from northwest Africa have invaded Mauritania, Senegal, Mali and Niger, disrupting the summer planting season, FAO said. Massive hatching has started in most of these countries and numerous hopper bands are forming.
In the coming weeks, more swarms are likely to appear in West Africa, including Chad, and some may even reach western Sudan. There is also a slight risk that swarms could reach northern Burkina Faso.
More breeding will occur from August onwards and the first new swarms could start to form by mid-September, seriously threatening crops that will be ready for harvest. Soon after this, the swarms are likely to re-invade the north and northwest unless conditions remain unusually favourable in the Sahel to allow another generation of breeding.
Swarms are not expected to move further south in West Africa until about October.
So far, no locusts have been reported in Darfur, Sudan, but the threat of swarms arriving from northwest Africa remains high until the end of August. Under the prevailing conditions, large-scale locust operations would be very difficult to carry out in this conflict-affected area.
More than 1.7 million hectares (ha) of locusts were treated in July in northwest Africa, bringing the total area treated in all affected countries since October 2003 to about 6.5 million ha.
Information Officer, FAO
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