UN agency urgently seeks $9 million to prevent locust plague in north and west Africa

23 February 2004
A female locust about to lay its eggs

Warning that a locust plague could hit the whole of West and North-West Africa, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) today launched an urgent appeal for $9 million to finance control and preventive measures.

After exceptional rains last year allowed generations of locusts to breed sufficiently to produce swarms, the agency called on international donors to provide $6 million to support desert locust control operations in Mauritania and Western Sahara, where the situation is deteriorating.

Tho pests that escape control are likely to move into Algeria and Morocco within a matter of weeks or even days, where a further cycle of breeding may take place in spring, FAO cautioned.

“Swarms that are not sprayed will move south in June/July and, if this year's summer rains are good, a plague affecting the whole of the Western Region (West and North-West Africa) could follow,” the agency noted, calling for a rapid reinforcement of control operations “to try to break this cycle of events.”

The agency sought a further $3 million for Mali, Niger and Chad, in order to prevent the early stages of the current upsurge from developing into a plague.

Algeria and Morocco came rapidly to Mauritania's assistance with qualified staff, vehicles, pesticides and light aircraft in an operation valued at more than $2 million and organized by FAO with a United States grant. But large populations of desert locust are still present as swarms and hopper bands, covering an estimated 500,000 hectares in Mauritania and Western Sahara.

With a movement of swarms to the north being imminent, Algeria and Morocco have to keep their remaining resources ready to eliminate any threat to their own agriculture. In Mauritania, resources are running out, threatening to halt further operations, while ecological conditions continue to be favourable for breeding, FAO added.

A locust outbreak is also in progress on the Red Sea coast in Saudi Arabia where swarms are forming, some of which are expected to move into the interior of the country where a further generation of breeding could occur in the coming months. A few swarms could reach adjacent areas in Jordan, southern Iraq and Western Iran after that, the agency said.


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