UN calls for more funding to keep Madagascar locust plague in check

The rainbow milkweed locust, in Madagascar. Photo: UNEP GRID Arendal/Peter Prokosch

2 October 2014 – Citing efforts to stave off a resurgence of Madagascar’s locust plague, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) today stressed the urgency of bridging a $14.7 million funding gap to cover aerial surveys, control operations, equipment and pesticides.

“The effects of this plague could have been devastating, but thanks to strong efforts by the Government, supported by FAO, we have succeeded in preventing these locusts from migrating even further,” said David Phiri, FAO’s Subregional Coordinator for Southern Africa.

FAO and the Government of Madagascar jointly launched a three-year locust control programme in September 2013. Since the first campaign, large-scale areal operations have surveyed over 30 million hectares of land and controlled locust populations on over 1.2 million hectares.

Despite those efforts, of great concern, however, is “a new challenge due to a gap in funding,” according to Mr. Phiri.

So far $28 million has been donated by the Governments of Austria, Belgium, France, Italy, Japan and Madagascar, through a World Bank loan; Norway and the United States, as well as the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) and the European Union. Donors such as Algeria, Mauritania and Morocco donated pesticides.

Preliminary results of the first anti-locust campaign showed prevention of larger damage to crops and pastures and protection of the large rice producing regions of the country located in the centre and north.

However, current funds are only sufficient to implement the first part of the second locust control campaign, which started in September 2014. With the rainy season approaching, from October 2014 onwards, the locust situation will deteriorate as temperatures and humidity during this period are ideal breeding conditions for the locust.

The second and third campaigns are imperative to respectively support the decline of the plague and the return to a situation of recession.

In this regard, additional support of $14.7 million is urgently needed for aerial surveys, control operations, equipment, pesticides, as well as the recruitment of key staff to carry out the second and third campaigns, according to FAO.

“An immediate food crisis has been avoided,” said Mr. Phiri, stressing that “an economical and humanitarian crisis could still threaten Madagascar if the next two campaigns are not implemented in time.”

Without the extra funding, efforts made during the first campaign will be largely lost and the locust plague will expand again. The context was similar in November 2010 and December 2011, when the funding for two anti-locust campaigns was not made available and as a result, the current plague developed.

“We are in a position to help – we just need one last push to stop this disaster and prevent future plagues,” said Mr. Phiri.

The highly destructive Malagasy Migratory Locust started in April 2012, ravaging crops and pastures from the southwest of the country toward the North. By April 2014, it had spread towards the country’s largest rice crop areas in the northwest and threatened the livelihoods of 13 million people.

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