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West Africa:Locust Crisis Threatens Serious Damage


Worsening Locust Crisis Threatens Serious Damage In West Africa - UN

West Africa is facing a worsening locust crisis as more swarms of the crop-devouring insects arrive in Mauritania, Mali and Niger, with the threat of serious damage hanging over several other countries, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reported today.

In its latest update on the potential plague, the agency said it had so far received from international donors at most less than a quarter of the funding commitments - $14 million out of between $58 million and $83 million -- needed to control the upsurge.

FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf and former Malian President Alpha Oumar Konare, Chairman of the African Union Commission, are visiting Mauritania for a first-hand look at the locust swarms and the damage they cause.

With a tiny fraction of the average swarm capable of eating as much food in one day as 2,500 people, FAO has throughout the year issued urgent appeals for international aid to stop the situation from developing into a plague.

The agency said that in Mauritania swarms are moving from the north towards the south and the first adult locusts of the summer generation could start to appear by the end of August, while in neighbouring Senegal swarms and hopper bands, newly hatched wingless locusts, were present along the Senegal River Valley and in the Ferlo Valley.

More that 22,000 hectares of infestations have been treated in control operations in both countries in the past few weeks. The main reason for the enormous numbers of locusts is that a series of good rains have fallen, first in the Sahel during the summer of 2003, and then in Northwest Africa during winter/spring. This created favourable ecological conditions for locust development and allowed at least four generations to breed one after the other. Locusts are also reaching unusual places. On 5 August a few swarms for the second time reached the Cape during a brief period of northeasterly winds. Swarms are highly mobile, flying many hundreds or thousands of kilometres between summer, winter and spring breeding areas.

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