FAO urges countries to continue intensive locust control campaigns
Success of winter/spring campaign will determine locust threats to the Sahel next summer
30 November 2004, Rome -- The period between now and the end of February 2005 is crucial for a well-coordinated desert locust control campaign to protect crops in the Maghreb and to reduce the risk of swarms reinvading the Sahelian countries next summer, according to FAO.
"FAO's current focus is on supporting northwest Africa and the northern Sahel during the winter and spring season," said Mahmoud Solh, Director, Plant Production and Protection Division, on the occasion of an extraordinary session of the 40-nation FAO Desert Locust Control Committee being held from 29 November to 2 December at the Organization's Rome headquarters.
"The goal is to prevent crop damage in the Maghreb countries and to reduce the number of swarms that form in the spring breeding areas in the Maghreb countries, which will eventually threaten the Sahel again. Every effort must be made now to prepare for a potential re-infestation in West Africa next summer," he said.
Representatives of locust affected countries and donors are meeting in Rome this week to review the lessons learnt from this year's locust campaign and to discuss future control activities.
Donors have pledged $70 million for locust control activities primarily in the Sahel to fight the worst locust upsurge in 15 years. Affected Maghreb countries are also in need of international support for their control campaigns, FAO said.
The 2.2 million hectares (ha) of infested land treated during the summer and up to mid-November has helped to limit the amount of crop and pasture damage that could have occurred in the Sahel.
Swarms that escaped spraying in the Sahel have moved rapidly to the Maghreb countries, FAO said. Intensive control operations are under way in Morocco, Algeria and western Libya. A substantial number of immature swarms could become trapped in the coming weeks in the Atlas Mountains and valleys in Morocco and Algeria, FAO said. Swarms will mature and lay eggs in March when temperatures warm up. This gives control teams at least three months to treat as many swarms as possible before they are ready to lay eggs.
In Morocco, around 1.4 million ha of infested land have been treated since September when swarms reappeared from the Sahel. Extensive spraying is also continuing in Algeria where about 700 000 ha have been treated. More than 25 aircraft are operational in the region now.
The success of the control campaign will heavily depend on weather conditions, Solh said. A lack of rain, for example, in combination with intensive control operations, could break the cycle of locust development.
In West Africa, some swarms are still present and are moving west in the Sahel, reinfesting northern Burkina Faso, and continuing into central and southwest Mali. Swarms are expected to move further west in Mali and could reach Guinea. Other swarms are moving west along the Mali/Mauritania border, reinvading southeastern and southern Mauritania and northeastern Senegal. Potential crop damage is expected to be limited, as most crops are already harvested.
Aerial and ground control operations continue against immature swarms in Mauritania. The country has treated around one million ha since July 2004.
The threat of more locust swarms flying towards Egypt, the Sinai and the Red Sea, is now low, FAO said.
FAO is helping affected countries to develop detailed contingency plans for a 2005 summer campaign. The UN agency is taking steps to recruit technical specialists in the areas of data management, control, survey, logistics, environmental and human health monitoring for many Sahelian countries.
The strategy is to build upon local human resources from national plant protection services, ministries and national institutions.
A training programme is being developed to prepare for national trainers in each country to conduct pre-season training of staff who may be involved in the next campaign. The training of specialized environmental and human health monitoring teams will be greatly expanded. Non-governmental organizations will be involved in this training programme.
FAO called upon countries to store pesticide stocks remaining from this year's campaign in properly protected warehouses so that they are available for the summer 2005 campaign. An inventory of remaining stocks is under way. Funds are also being provided to collect empty pesticide drums and ensure that proper disposal procedures are followed.
FAO hopes that large-scale field trials of environmentally friendly bio-pesticides will be completed before next summer and that some of these products can be used in future control campaigns.
Information Officer, FAO
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