FAO warns of desert locusts breeding in Africa, Yemen

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United Nations – The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) warned that the extreme weather conditions could favour Desert Locust breeding in northwest Africa, the Horn of Africa and Yemen.

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This is contained in a statement issued by the FAO on Wednesday in New York.

The world food organisation stressed the need to closely monitor the situation over the next six months to prevent plagues.

The statement quoted Keith Cressman, FAO Senior Locust Forecasting Officer as saying:”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.”

It also quoted some FAO experts, as saying, the locust situation in countries normally affected by Desert Locust remained mostly calm in October with only small-scale breeding activity detected.[pro_ad_display_adzone id=”70560″]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.

Cressman said that the effects of a locust plague could be devastating on crops and pastures and thus threaten food security and rural livelihoods.

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

It added that female locusts could lay 300 eggs within their lifetime while a Desert Locust adult could consume about two grammes of fresh food every day.

This, it added, was roughly its own weight and a small swarms could eat the same amount of food in one day as about 35,000 people.

The agency also said that the recent tropical cyclones Chapala and Megh that hit Yemen had affected north-eastern Somalia, where torrential rains which far exceeded the annual average rainfall for the entire year, caused flooding and damage.

The organisation warned that if the rains continued, there would be sufficient time for two generations of breeding to occur this year in the coastal areas of Sudan, northern Eritrea, southeast Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Yemen.

FAO stressed that prevention is the key in reducing the extent to which Desert Locust can affect agricultural areas, mainly through early warning and early reaction.

The agency said that it was imperative that countries conduct necessary field surveys after unusually heavy rainfall, and maintain them on a regular basis for routine monitoring of breeding conditions and locust infestations.

Further, FAO said that finding of significant infestations required control operations to avoid a further escalation in locust numbers.

It said the results of survey and control operations must be reported quickly and accurately so that swift decisions could be taken to prevent the spread of locusts to other countries.

FAO observed that while such measures helped in curtailing the frequency and duration of plagues since 1960s, climate change activities today are leading to more frequent, unpredictable and extreme weather.

This, it added, posed fresh challenges on how to monitor locust activity.

Furthermore, the FAO stressed that without regular monitoring, locust outbreaks followed after floods and cyclones could lead to plagues.

It added that warmer conditions could possibly shorten the incubation and maturation periods of the insects.(NAN)

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