UN calls for increased vigilance to staunch return of African locust swarms

3 August 2005 –

Although current locust infestations in Africa are much lower than last year's devastating swarms, and affected countries are much better prepared than 12 months ago, the United Nations agricultural agency continued to call for increased vigilance and intensive survey operations in a desert locust update released today.

In the update, the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) says that unusually heavy rainfall and excellent breeding conditions caused hopper bands to form in July in eastern Chad and the Darfur region of Sudan. In addition, new infestations have been found in eastern Eritrea.

Elsewhere in the Sahel, including the summer breeding areas of southern Mauritania, northern Mali, Niger and western Chad, very few locusts have been seen so far, despite good rainfall and favourable breeding conditions.

Nevertheless, the agency cautions that intensive surveys must be maintained on a regular basis in all areas throughout the summer to detect the first signs of an increase in locust populations, particularly since the rainfall is expected to continue and an outbreak could still develop in August and September.

During July, ground control teams were able to treat nearly 1,726 hectares in accessible areas of Eritrea. A few small hopper bands were treated in northern Ethiopia, but there were other areas where breeding may have occurred but could not be accessed on the ground.

Since the start of the locust crisis in October 2003, donor countries have provided over $74 million, to which FAO has added over $6 million from its own resources. The UN agency provided overall leadership of the campaign, issued alerts and warnings, and delivered, with donor resources, nearly 60 per cent of the pesticides used, 50 vehicles, numerous sprayers, communication equipment, protective clothing and technical advice.

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