Namibia combats armies of locusts

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Windhoek – Namibia’s Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry is enhancing its efforts to combat waves of locusts invading the northeast of the country, with the situation most dire in Zambezi Region.

Agriculture Minister Carl Schlettwein told legislators on September 24, 2020 that an area of 4,002km² had already been invaded and 500 hectares of grazing land had been destroyed.

The African migratory red locust was first cited on August 12 in Muzi, Namiyundu, Ivilivizi, Lusese and surrounding areas. Since then, the invasion has spread in what is the second outbreak of locust this year following another one in February.

The government has deployed a team of at least 35 experts to exterminate the pests using pesticides such as Decis, Deltathrin, Sevus, Cyperfos and Klorpirilo, which are being applied with vehicle-mounted mist blowers and knapsacks.

Minister Schlettwein said the locust outbreak had also affected Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

"Some of these countries are using aerial spraying that causes the locust to migrate to other countries. Therefore, to further chance the containment of this outbreak, the current mode of spraying needs to be complemented with aerial spraying, as the spread is getting intense and also to prevent the spread of the locust to other regions within the country,” the minister said.

Aerial spraying, he said, would require an initial budget of at least N$30 million (UA$2 million).

The intervention teams face challenges of inadequate equipment, vehicles and manpower to cover the sprawling area affected by the locusts.

The Agriculture Ministry has partnered the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation, the African Development Bank and GIZ to fight the African migratory red locust outbreak.

Zambia has warned that the outbreak threatens the country’s food security and it is also working with international partners to deal with the armies of locusts.

In Botswana, smallholder farmers have lost entire crops already and the pests have entered the country’s 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.

FAO has launched a US$500,000 Southern Africa Emergency Locust Response and Preparedness Project to assist the SADC region fight the armies of locusts.

The project seeks to focus on emergency response in locust hotspots and strengthen co-ordination and information exchange between affected countries.

The programme will further enable aerial surveillance and mapping activities in hard-hit areas and provide technical support for national locust surveillance and control units to be established. 

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