UN agency helps Afghanistan clear locusts from agricultural areas
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has helped Afghanistan clear locusts from cultivated areas in the agriculture-dependent country, where an explosion in numbers of the crop-devouring insects of plague proportions four years ago has posed a clear and present danger.
“The extent of the infested area has been greatly reduced and the main cultivated areas have now been cleared,” FAO Locust Control Coordinator for Afghanistan Andrew Harvey told a news briefing at the agency’s Rome headquarters today.
The only areas where locusts successfully laid eggs this year were in remote desert areas, he said. While some control will be necessary in 2006 to prevent reinvasion of cultivated areas, it will not need to be extensive as the country's locust population has been drastically reduced from 2002 levels, he added.
Locusts are a perennial pest in Afghanistan where the vast explosion of their numbers in 2000/2001 posed a very real threat in a country for which agriculture provides more than 51 per cent of the gross domestic product and employs over 80 per cent of the labour force.
Since 2002, FAO has assisted in yearly anti-locust campaigns, involving not only control operations but also training and capacity-building. FAO has provided equipment, pesticides, logistical and coordination support along with training, while manpower has been supplied by local communities under a traditional system of communal work called hasher.