Joint effort needed to battle locusts

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Lusaka – Zambia’s Agriculture Minister, Mr Michael Katambo, has called for greater multilateral co-operation to overcome the cross-border challenge posed by the African migratory locust (AML).

The AML infestation has hit Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe, threatening food security in those countries. In addition to interventions at individual state level to fight the locusts, there is also a US$500,000 international effort spearheaded by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation, and the the International Red Locust Control Service (IRLCS).

In Zambia, authorities say they have recorded incidences of AML returning to areas that had already been sprayed. This indicates lack of cross-border co-ordination on which areas to chemically attack at what time by different state authorities.

Zambia recently sprayed about 10,397 hectares in Western, Central and Southern provinces, resulting in an estimated 95 percent reduction in AML population in those regions.

However, populations rose again as locusts migrated in from Botswana and Namibia.

Minister Katambo said, "We have since engaged the relevant authorities in Namibia who have confirmed to us that they have commenced the spraying on their side of the border.  We intend to call for a meeting with the Namibian authorities to coordinate our control efforts. A response is awaited from Botswana and other neighbours on the need to jointly control the outbreak along the borders.”

Recently, Namibia’s Agriculture, Water and Forestry Minister Carl Schlettwein said the government had to initially budget US$2 million for aerial spraying to complement ground-based efforts. In Botswana, smallholder farmers have lost entire crops and the pests have entered the Pandamatenga region where a significant proportion of the staple sorghum is grown. Zimbabwe is battling the locusts in Chiredzi in the southwest and in Manicaland Province in the east.

There have been some really huge infestations of AML in the past.

A major plague occurred from 1891 to 1903, followed by another that lasted from 1928 to 1941.  For many years after that, the African migratory locust was in recession, before another major outbreak lasted from 2003 to 2005, causing crop losses worth US$2,5 billion.

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