A new round of locust swarms has hit Ethiopia and is again threatening crops and food security, say agricultural officials.
Dereje Hirpha, the Oromia region’s head of locust control, tells VOA’s Horn of Africa Service that the new generation of locusts was first reported weeks ago in the Raya district and has since spread across thousands of hectares in 40 districts of the region.
The fast-moving swarm is threatening crops in a country where more than 80 percent of the population depends on agriculture for its livelihood.
Similar locusts wave hit Ethiopia a year ago. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has said it believes heavy rainfall in East Africa has contributed to the growth of locust swarms in the area.
This new generation is arriving from Somaliland, while breeding has continued on both sides of the Red Sea, and in Sudan and Eritrea, according to experts.
USAID plans to work with the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization to prevent and control the spread of locusts, its office of communication says. The agency is training more than 300 pest experts and providing 5,000 sets of protective equipment for locust fighters.
Hirpha says authorities are spraying the affected areas from planes and vehicles on the ground to ward off the pests.
Locals, meanwhile, are engaged in their own combat operation. When a locust swarm approaches, residents try to scare them away by blowing whistles, drumming empty buckets, setting fires, and shooting into the air.
Locust chasers take position in green areas to disperse the swarms before the descend.
“From a distance the swarm looks like a brown cloud, a sandstorm,” says Sora Kura, one of the chasers in the Borana zone.
The swarm follows the wind direction and is also guided by hairy antenna on their heads that detect smells and other signals of food, Hirpha says. According to the FAO, the swarms can move up to 150 kilometers per day.
USAID says the swarms will likely spread next to southwest Ethiopia and northwestern Kenya, and may enter Uganda and South Sudan.
Desert locusts can comfortably live in a warm, sandy environment like Eastern Ethiopia and Somaliland, Hirpha says.
Ethiopia has to report any assessment of the crops lost to the pests. In 2003 and 2005, locust outbreaks in more than 20 countries, mainly in North Africa, cost farmers $3.6 billion, according to the FAO. (VOA)
Locust Control Offices (LCOs) on Friday conducted control operations at 15 locations in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, the Union Agriculture Ministry said, adding that no crop loss was reported. Locust control operations were conducted at 10 locations in districts of Jaipur, Dausa, Bikaner, Jodhpur, Barmer, Chittorgarh, Sri Ganganagar (Rajasthan) and Niwari and Shivpuri (Madhya Pradesh).
Besides, the Madhya Pradesh Agriculture Department also undertook control operations at 5 locations, one each in the Satna, Balaghat, Niwari, Raisen and Shivpuri districts. As on May 28, a total of 377 spots covering 53,997 hectares have been covered since locust control operations started from April 11, the Ministry said in a statement.
Locust operations have been conducted in 11 districts of Rajasthan, 24 of Madhya Pradesh, three in Maharashtra, two each in Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh and one in Punjab. Agriculture, Cooperation and Farmers Welfare Secretary, Sanjay Agarwal on Friday organised a meeting, via video conference, with the Principal Secretary, Agriculture, of all the states and UTs, said the statement.
All the states and UTs were informed about the latest status and control of locust attack and an an advisory was issued in respect of locusts to all the states/UTs. A letter was issued on Wednesday by the Union Home Secretary to the Chief Secretaries of all the states/UTs giving necessary instructions to streamline the inter-state movement facility for the personnel engaged in locust control works.
The MHA has included hiring of vehicles/tractors with spray equipment for spraying of plant protection chemicals for pest control, hiring of water tankers, and purchase of plant protection chemicals for locust control in this and the norms related to the quantum of assistance will be limited to the actual expenditure incurred on these items. However, expenditure should not exceed 25 per cent of SDRF allocation for the year, said the statement.
As per FAOs Locust Status Bulletin of May 27, several successive waves of invasions can be expected until July in Rajasthan with eastward surges across northern India as far as Bihar and Odisha, followed by westward movements and a return to Rajasthan on the changing winds associated with the monsoon. These movements will cease as swarms begin to breed and become less mobile. Swarms are less likely to reach south India, Nepal, and Bangladesh. (IANS)
Swarms of locusts have flown into India from Pakistan entering Rajasthan last month, affecting several districts. They have further spread to other western and northwestern states of Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, and Punjab after heavy infestation in Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, and Haryana. These swarms are damaging crops and agricultural livelihoods in what seems like the worst attack in three decades. After causing widespread damage in Pakistan they ave headed towards Indian states.
The Indian economy which was already in a pitiful state and was plagued by an economic slowdown, due to Covid-19 and subsequent lockdown is now under the threat of a severe agrarian crisis at the hands of these flying pests. Agricultural expert Devinder Sharma tried to explain what has led to this sudden locust attack on India, “Climate change is facilitating breeding and movement of locusts. Untimely rains and increased cyclonic activity have helped them breed faster. A locust attack never occurred in December but there was one in 2019,” he said.
According to the Union Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, The Department of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare has actively stepped up locust control operations in the affected states of Rajasthan, Punjab, Gujarat, and Madhya Pradesh.
What are locusts?
Locusts look like ordinary grasshoppers and are considered the most destructive migratory pests in the world. These insects travel in enormous swarms that can travel up to 150 kilometers in a day depending on the wind speed. They devour on leaves, flowers, fruits, seeds, bark, and growing points basically devastating any crops that come on their way. They leave behind a trail of destruction by causing serious agricultural damage in their wake. Locusts can lead to famine and starvation as their sheer weight the massive numbers that travel dooms crops.
The desert locust threatens one-fifth of Earth’s land area and one-tenth of the global population, they are responsible for a lot of economic destruction. Essentially they are found in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia, inhabiting an area of about six million square miles. On average a small swarm of the desert locust eats as much food in one day as about 10 elephants, 25 camels, or 2,500 people.
Locusts as a symbol of doom since ages
Since the biblical time’s locusts have been considered a bad omen that brings devastation and plague. “The locusts will cover the face of the ground so that it cannot be seen. They will devour what little you have left after the hail, including every tree that is growing in your fields,” said a vengeful god of The Old Testament as he cursed the Egyptians. This gives a fair idea of the association of locusts with destruction and doom.
Producer of BBC’s famous documentary show ‘Earth’ said, “The locusts don’t hit you or fly into you, instead they part like a stream around a rock, flying within a few inches of you.” “Also, the sound made by so many billions of wings all beating in unison is incredible, like a deep roar of a waterfall, but almost on the edge of hearing,”he further added.
These dreaded creatures are known for the wide-spread destruction, hunger, poverty, and economic crisis that they bring along when their enormous swarms fly into any nation.
How is India fighting the Locust Attack?
Locust attacks in India since 1993 have been localized to Rajasthan, however this time, favorable weather conditions have led them to travel from Rajasthan to Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, and even Maharashtra.
According to the Agriculture Ministry, locust containment measures and sprinkling operations are being conducted in 303 locations spread across more than 47,000 hectares till Wednesday. It is happening in 20 districts of Rajasthan, nine in Madhya Pradesh, two in Gujarat, and one each in Uttar Pradesh and Punjab. Around 200 Locust Circle Offices (LCO) are conducting survey and control operations in close coordination with the district administration and agriculture field machinery of the affected states.
The government claims that locust control operations are in full swing in coordination with the state agriculture departments and local administration. As of now, 89 fire brigades for pesticide spray, 120 survey vehicles, 47 control vehicles fitted with spray equipment and 810 tractors with sprayers have been deployed for actively controlling the locust situation. Across many areas, drones will be deployed for tracing and eliminating swarms.
Several states have resorted to their own strategies in dealing with the locust threat. Delhi and Chhatisgarh are on high alert for locust attacks and are taking preventive measures by the use of pesticides. Among other measures, controlled spraying of insecticide on locusts’ night resting places like trees would also be deployed.
This devastating locust attack that has surrounded India while the nation struggles to deal with the pandemic could lead to a lack of food grains and vegetables drowning the nation into fresh economic trouble. If not dealt with timely and effectively an agrarian crisis due to locust attack will further throw the government into grave problems.
To deal with the attack of locusts in the national capital, the Delhi government has issued an advisory for spraying pesticides, Cabinet Minister Gopal Rai said on Thursday.
Rai said in view of the increasing threat of locusts in north India, the Agriculture Department of the Delhi government will run awareness programmes to make the people and farmers of Delhi aware of this new threat.
“Also, the Delhi Government has issued advisory on spraying pesticides and its quantity,” Rai tweeted.
The circular was issued in order to prevent a probable attack in Delhi by a swarm of locusts, which are reportedly present in the states of Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan.
“All concerned authorities are hereby advised to take preventive measures to control and eradicate the locusts to avoid devastating effect on standing agricultural and horticultural crops, vegetation, plants, gardens, orchard etc. in Delhi,” the circular said.
It directed that awareness programmes be organised for the public and farmers to prevent and control any such invasion by locusts in Delhi.