UN again seeks urgent global aid to forestall potential African locust plague

Calling the next two months in the battle against locusts in West Africa “extremely crucial,” the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) today again urged the world community to come up with the funding and equipment needed to prevent the crop-devouring insects from developing into a full-scale plague. “To make a real impact in the battle to control the desert locust upsurge, help must arrive this month in order to disrupt the next locust breeding cycle in October,” FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf said is his agency’s latest appeal. “Otherwise the infestation could spread to even more countries in Africa threatening food security in a wide area.” There is an urgent need to get large quantities of pesticides, spraying equipment and other means to the scene, but to do so required funds which were only now becoming available, he added. So far only $37 million of the requested $100 million have been pledged while the situation continues to deteriorate. FAO warned last month that the current infestation is potentially worse than the last plague of 1987-89, which cost the international community $300 million. Welcoming a 12-country West African ministerial meeting held in Dakar, Senegal, to counter the threat to crops and pasture in the region, Mr. Diouf stressed: “Locusts don’t respect political boundaries, so it is essential that the countries in the region work closely together to tackle this emergency.” Since last October FAO has been warning of the growing threat from locust swarms caused by the abundant rains that fell in the summer of 2003 throughout much of West Africa. Substantial breeding is now in progress over a large area of southern Mauritania, in the sub-Saharan zone of Mali, in western Niger and northern and central Senegal. Hatching has occurred and hopper bands are forming in all of these countries. The first generation of summer swarms in Mauritania can be expected to form in the coming days. In the coming weeks they will form in other countries. Several locust swarms from northwest Africa reached both western and northeastern Chad earlier in August and a few swarms have also reached northern Burkina Faso. The swarms have laid eggs in both countries. Significant crop damage has been reported in several countries. Control operations are underway in all these countries but they are hampered by insufficient resources. read more