Locust plague in Africa

Photo credit: UN News Cente

Locusts can devastate crops and pastures. Photo: FAO/Giampiero Diana

Recent cyclones and heavy rains in Yemen and Africa could trigger locust plagues, UN agency warns

As unusually heavy and widespread rains continue in northwest Africa, the Horn of Africa and Yemen, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warned today that the extreme weather conditions could favour Desert Locust breeding, and stressed the need closely monitor the situation over the next six months to prevent plagues.

“Extreme weather events, including torrential downpours, have the potential to trigger a massive surge in locust numbers. Rain provides moist soil for the insects to lay their eggs, which in turn need to absorb water, while rains also allow vegetation to grow which locusts need for food and shelter,” said Keith Cressman, FAO Senior Locust Forecasting Officer in a news release.

According to FAO experts, the locust situation in countries normally affected by Desert Locust remained mostly calm in October with only small-scale breeding activity detected.

However, the experts warned that impact of El Niño in Africa and the unprecedented back-to-back tropical cyclones Chapala and Megh in the Arabian Peninsula and the Horn of Africa could aid the insects in forming destructive swarms.

“The effects of a locust plague can be devastating on crops and pastures and thus threaten food security and rural livelihoods,” added Mr. Cressman.

The agency experts said that once airborne, swarms of tens of millions of locusts can fly up to 150 kilometres a day with the wind.

 

Read the full article: UN News Centre

Published by

Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.