A desert locust outbreak has been reported in parts of Eritrea, and other Red Sea and Gulf of Aden nations are being warned to watch for possible infestations. The UN Food an Agriculture Organization has raised the alert level to “caution” in the region.
Christian Pantenius is a senior officer with the FAO’s emergency prevention systems. From Rome, he spoke to VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about the early warnings of locust infestations.
“I would say what is happening around the Red Sea coast area and the Gulf of Aden, we have received unusually heavy rainfall in…northern Somalia, Eritrea and Sudan…as well as in Yemen. And this was creating…favorable breeding conditions for the desert locust,” he says.
Asked whether these conditions are certain to bring large infestations, Pantenius says, “This is very difficult to get at the moment. But at least it has triggered an outbreak in Eritrea, which is already alarming enough. Unfortunately some swarms that were derived from the eastern lowlands of Eritrea arrived already in the neighboring area of Sudan, meaning south of Toka. And it’s likely to bear a second generation.”
Control operations are underway by ground teams in Eritrea and Sudan, while aircraft are standing by for aerial spraying. The FAO official says biopesticides, which contain natural ingredients such as plants and bacteria, are fatal to locusts but harmless to the environment.