UN to battle locusts and their appetites in Central Asia and Caucasus

Moroccan locust females laying eggs

19 May 2011 – The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) today announced a scheme to assist 10 countries across Central Asia and the Caucasus to protect up to 25 million hectares of their cultivated farmland from locusts.

The five-year programme, to be launched with the assistance of a $1.6 million contribution from the United States, will promote preparedness, early warning and early reaction activities in Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russian Federation, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, all of which are at risk of attack by Italian, Moroccan and migratory locusts, FAO reported.

The locusts threaten the food security of some 20 million people, the agency said.

The initiative, launched at the requests of the countries involved, also seeks to introduce new techniques for locust control using less environmentally hazardous pesticides, including bio-pesticides.

“As borders are situated across the locust traditional habitats and breeding areas, when a country is facing locust infestations, it is more than likely that at least one neighboring country faces a similar situation,” said Annie Monard, FAO Locust Officer.

The migrant pests, able to fly up to 100 kilometres a day, are extremely opportunistic, adapting quickly to changing weather patterns, including those associated with climate change.

The agency said negotiations are under way with other donor countries, such as the Russia, France and Turkey, which have indicated their willingness to support the programme.

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