UN-backed campaign prevents locust outbreak in East Africa

Locust swarms in Tanzania.

24 June 2009 – United Nations-backed emergency efforts have successfully contained a massive Red Locust outbreak in Tanzania and upheld the livelihoods of millions of farmers, marking the first time that biopesticides have been used on a large scale in Africa against the transboundary pests.

Infestations have been markedly reduced by the campaign, organized and coordinated by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the International Locust Control Organization for Central and Southern Africa (IRLCO-CSA).

Aerial surveys will be carried out in the coming weeks in Malawi, Mozambique Tanzania and Zambia until the threat is fully under control.

“Without the rapid intervention, involving affected countries and the international community, the Central and Southern Africa region could have faced a major Red Locust disaster, putting agriculture and food production of millions of poor farmers at risk,” said Modibo Traoré, FAO Assistant Director-General.

East African nations, which do not have the resources and equipment needed to swiftly respond to infestation in hard-to-reach areas, which faced potential outbreaks appealed to FAO for emergency help.

FAO’s locust control activities in Tanzania focused on three main areas: the Iku-Katavi National Park, the Lake Rukwa plains and the Malagarasi River Basin.

If not controlled, large Red Locust swarms will fly over large tracts of farmland and feed on cereals, sugar cane and other crops often planted by poor farmers. An adult Red Locust consumes roughly its own body weight – about two grams – in fresh food every 24 hours. Just a fraction of an average swarm consumes the same amount of food in one day as 2,500 people do.

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