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West Africa: New Generation of Locusts Expected As Egg-Laying Continues

UN Integrated Regional Information Networks
Posted to the web October 1, 2004

Swarms of locusts are still laying eggs in southern Mauritania and although the rainy season is coming to an end, conditions are still favourable for a fresh round of breeding to take place in many parts of West Africa, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said on Friday. "Conditions remain favourable in many parts of the Sahel to allow a second generation of breeding. So far this is in progress in southern Mauritania near Aioun El Atrous, where recently matured summer swarms were seen laying eggs in the past few days," the FAO said in its latest update on the crisis. The organisation said many swarms of recently hatched immature locusts were still forming in southern Mauritania, northern Senegal, Mali, Niger and the north of Burkina Faso and that some of these were large, dense and highly mobile.

The FAO noted that lush vegetation which sprung up on the southern fringes of the Sahara during July and August was now drying out, forcing the insects to move greater distances in search of food. It also reported that following a change in the prevailing winds, large swarms of locusts had started moving north across the Sahara towards Morocco and Algeria. One mega-swarm sighted in northern Mauritania was reported to be 70 km long. "More swarms will form in the Sahelian countries and move into northwest Mauritania and the southern portion of Northwest Africa in the coming weeks," the FAO predicted. The organisation, which has taken the lead role in coordinating the locust control campaign, warned that West African countries were still desperately short of aircraft and pesticides to spray the swarms which threaten to devour a large part of the current grain harvest.

Although an estimated three to four million hectares of land had been infested with locusts in the dry savannah lands of the Sahel, less than 500,000 hectares had so far been treated, the FAO said.

It reiterated that Mauritania, Senegal, Mali and Niger were the countries worst affected. As dry season winds blow the locust swarms west as well as north, some have been blown out into the Atlantic ocean and have reached the Cape Verde Islands, 450 km offshore. However, Keith Cressman, a locust control officer with the FAO in Rome, said the swarms reaching Cape Verde were quite small and were not expected to cause significant crop damage in the arid archipelago.

The FAO appealed in mid-August for US$100 million to fight the invasion of locusts, the worst seen in West Africa for 15 years. It said on Friday that $48.7 million had so far been pledged by donors, while the United Nations had agreed to contribute a further $6 million from its own funds. However, the organisation noted that so far only $14.7 million of cash been made available. "More support is urgently needed to protect crops and pasture and extend locust control activities, in particular (to obtain) transport and spraying planes and helicopters," said Clive Elliott, Senior Officer of the FAO Locust Group.