Armies of locusts march across region

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Gaborone - The march of locusts across Southern Africa is threatening the food and nutrition security of millions of people in four countries.

This is according to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation, which sees livelihoods at risk in Botswana, Namibia,

Zambia and Zimbabwe due to an African migratory locust (AML) outbreak.

Launching an emergency response effort to control the swarms, the organisation warned that around seven million people in the four affected countries - who are still recovering from the impact of the 2019 drought and grappling with the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic - could experience further food and nutrition insecurity.

FAO said it was working with the Southern African Development Community and the International Red Locust Control Organisation for Central and Southern Africa (IRLCO-CSA) to contain the situation.

FAO sub-regional co-ordinator for Southern Africa Patrice Talla said,

“Some of the worst-affected areas are very difficult to reach. We need to support the four governments, SADC and partner organisations like IRLCO-CSA to control this pest and protect people’s livelihoods.”

FAO said the AML outbreak was separate from that of desert locusts in East Africa.

“Locusts are among the most destructive pests in the world. One swarm can contain tens of millions of adults - there are currently multiple swarms in the southern region. A single swarm can eat as much in one day as 2,500 people, demolishing crops and livestock pasture in a matter of hours,” FAO said.

The report says some smallholders in Botswana lost their entire crop at the start of the outbreak and the Pendamatenga breadbasket, where the bulk of the staple sorghum is grown, could be hit hard.

In Namibia the outbreak has spread from the Zambezi plains to key farming regions. Similarly, in Zambia, the locust has spread rapidly and is affecting both crop and grazing lands.

In Zimbabwe, swarms and hoppers initially infested two sites in the southeast and have now moved to the center of the country.

FAO this week launched the US$500,000 to strengthen “co-ordination and information exchange among the affected countries”.

“It will also enable aerial surveillance and mapping activities in hard-to-reach areas, and provide technical support for national locust surveillance and control units to be established,” the organisation said.

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