Locust Invasion In West Africa
Over this past week the worsening situation in West Africa, including Mali, caused by the locust swarms that annihilate the harvest has been a heavy burden on my heart. People lose all they have and are in danger of starvation - one million people across West Africa are concerned.
And the worst is yet to come in a few weeks, when the next generation of locusts swarm out. Please pray that the damage would be minimal. And I'm also asking the Lord what I could do. I feel compelled to go help those who have lost everything and who have nothing to eat, by providing food as well as sharing the good news.
May our Lord and King be glorified through this situation, and may His kingdom spread in Mali!
In His service,
The plague of locusts sweeping south across the Sahara desert is now causing serious crop damage in Mauritania, Mali and Niger and has spread for the first time to Chad, agricultural experts and government officials said on Monday.
Over the weekend, swarms of locusts invaded eastern Mali and started devouring crops, an agricultural official in the central town of Mopti said.
"What I saw yesterday evening around 8 p.m. around Douentza on the way to Gao, was worrying : about four hectares of land was covered with locusts," Cheick Sidiya Diaby, the government's regional director of agriculture in Mopti, told IRIN by telephone.
"Until then, the swarms, which consisted of 600 000 to 700 000 insects per hectare, had mainly been eating trees and grass, but now they have started eating crops too. If nothing is done, the consequences on people and their livestock will be incalculable," he added.
However, despite the intensity of the invasion, all the Sahelian countries are suffering a chronic shortage of insecticide and spraying equipment and vehicles with which to spray the locusts and prevent them from breeding.
Mali has so far raised only one third of the US$3 million requested from donors to step up locust control measures.
"To date, we have been invaded by 63 swarms, but we only have a third of the resources we need to treat the area of nearly 650,000 hectares that is currently infested", Brahima Koni, the deputy coordinator of Mali's locust control campaign, told IRIN by telephone from Bamako.
So far, he added, Mali only has 18 spray teams deployed on the ground.
Meanwhile, local people in the affected countries have resorted to fighting the insect invasion with their bare hands.
In Mali, villagers have formed groups of up to 50 people who gather whenever they see locusts descending on their crops, and try to chase them away with sticks.
When the insects descended on Nouakchott last week, city residents tried in vain to burn rubbish, tyres and dead leaves to create smoke that would drive them away.
In many countries, villagers simply dig holes that they hope recently hatched flightless locusts known as hoppers will fall into. They then burn or drown them.
But locust experts warned that the worst is still to come. "In the weeks to come, there will be many more locusts than those that have arrived so far", Annie Monnard, an FAO locust specialist told IRIN from Rome.
The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has warned that unless a new generation of immature insects developing in the semi-desert of southern Mauritania is sprayed quickly with insecticide, a new generation of mature locusts will take to the skies in the coming weeks and wreak even greater damage on crops throughout the Sahel.
"If we do not succeed in controlling the plague in Mauritania, we will have new swarms taking off for Senegal, Mali, Niger, Chad and beyond there towards Sudan," FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf told reporters in Dakar on Wednesday night following a two-day trip to Mauritania and Senegal.
Diouf said he estimated the cost of controlling the locust invasion had gone up to US$100 million from $9 million in February when the FAO first appealed for international aid to deal with the threat of a new plague across West Africa.
But he warned that unless the international community reacted quickly, several countries could face famine and the final cost would be much higher.
"If we delay, we will be faced with the situation we experienced 15 years ago when $600 million had to be devoted to the fight against locusts over a period of five years," Diouf said.
Agricultural experts say the situation is particularly critical in the semi-arid countries of the Sahel since the rainy season has created favourable conditions for locust breeding and a new generation of the insects is likely to descend on food crops there next month just as they are ripening for the annual harvest.
FAO said locust control teams in Mauritania managed to treat just over 6,000 hectares of infected land during the first 10 days of August. However, the government has said it needs to spray up to one million hectares to bring the insects under control.
Localised damage to crops has also been reported in Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad.
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