A new offensive is being launched against the Desert Locust in northeast Africa. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization is calling on countries there to intensify survey and control operations, especially along the Red Sea coast of Eritrea and in northwest Somalia.
Keith Cressman is a desert locust expert at the FAO. From Rome, he spoke to VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about the extent of the outbreaks.
“The locust situation still is extremely serious on the Red Sea coast on both sides of the border of Eritrea and Sudan. This is an area where a Desert Locust outbreak started in December of last year and control operations have been going on since then, mainly on the ground. What is happening at the moment is that the vegetation now is starting to dry out. And when this happens the locust adults tend to concentrate in those areas that remain green and then they can easily form swarms. And as the vegetation is drying out, these swarms are expected to move out of these breeding areas,” he says.
Cressman says if control operations had not been going on for months the number of locusts would be much higher. “Nevertheless,” he says, “we do still have a problem. And this does illustrate the difficulty of trying to find all of the locust infestations and treat them in these rather remote and very difficult areas to operate in.”
There’s concern over where the locust may go. The FAO expert says, “We are concerned they could move off of the Red Sea coast and into a number of different places. One of these is just simply further up the coast in Sudan in a very large agricultural area called the Tokar Delta. And obviously if they get into such agricultural areas they can cause some considerable damage. The other area that we’re worried about they’re moving into is the Eritrean highlands. Now this is a mountainous area in the northern part of Eritrea.” The highlands are rich in pastures and farmland.
There’s another locust problem developing in the Horn of Africa, on the coast of northwest Somalia, near the border with Djibouti. There’s also a slight chance the Desert Locusts could actually travel to Saudi Arabia.