News / Africa

Locusts Threaten Beleaguered Mali

An African farmer holds up locusts that have descended on crops (file photo).
An African farmer holds up locusts that have descended on crops (file photo).
Nancy Palus
Mali is bracing for an invasion of locusts as unrest in north and west Africa hampers efforts to control the crop-ravaging insects. Locust sightings have been reported in northern Mali, where families are already hard-hit by conflict and food insecurity, and where equipment used to control the swarms has been looted by armed groups.
 
As desert locusts approach northern Mali and neighboring Niger, national experts in Mali, who normally work on mitigating the impact, are hamstrung by unrest and a lack of access and equipment.
 
As of June 8, the Food and Agriculture Organization - the U.N. agency that monitors locust movements - classified Mali as a zone where surveillance and control “must be undertaken” and where crops are threatened.

No equipment
 
Oumar Traoré, head technician with Mali’s locust control center, which normally would carry out that surveillance and control, says most of the national center’s equipment was stocked in a warehouse in the northern town of Gao and everything was stolen when armed groups seized northern Mali.
 
When the groups swept into the region just over two months ago, they looted government buildings, hospitals, and the offices and warehouses of national and international aid organizations.
 
Most families in Mali’s extreme north depend on livestock, and locust swarms would destroy pastures that feed their animals.
 
Traoré says the worry now is that the insects could quickly advance farther south, where people live off farming.

The rain factor
 
As areas dry up, locusts move on and seek vegetation. Keith Cressman, the FAO’s senior locust forecasting officer, said sporadic rains in northern Niger and Mali could affect how the swarms behave.
 
"Of course not all areas have received these rains so there are areas in the north of both countries that are dry. So the locusts could overfly those areas and continue as far south as they can before they hit the southerly headwinds, Cressman explained, "but it could put them into the agricultural zones of the central parts of Mali and central and southern parts of Niger. The time they would be arriving would coincide with the planting of this year’s crops and we already know that in both countries [people] are very vulnerable this year to food insecurity because of last year’s poor harvest."
 
The U.N. World Food Program says that drought in the region has left millions of people hungry. The agency says the conflict in Mali has forced at least 300,000 people to flee, adding to the food crisis there and in surrounding countries.
 
Locust source


The desert locust swarms threatening Mali and Niger are coming from Algeria and Libya to the north.
 
Cressman told VOA that normally locust control teams would be able to control the insects along the Algeria-Libya border, but given events over the past several months that has not been the case.
 
"Algeria made an estimate, saying that of the potential areas that are infested with desert locusts, the ground teams could only reach 15 percent of those areas, so that means 85 percent of the areas were unsurveyed and untreated," he said.
 
Cressman said the situation is likely similar on the Libyan side.
 
FAO says a small portion of an average swarm - about one ton of locusts - eats as much food in one day as 10 elephants or 2,500 people.

You May Like

Video British Fighters on Frontline of Islamic State Information War

It’s estimated that several hundred British citizens are fighting for Islamic State alongside other foreign jihadists More

Pakistan's Political Turmoil Again Shines Spotlight on Military

Thousands of protesters calling for PM Sharif to step down continue protests in front of parliament, as critics fear political impasse could spur another military coup More

Photogallery Ebola Quarantines Spark Anxiety in Liberian Capital

Food prices rise sharply as residents attempting purchases clash with security forces, leaving one person dead More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Native Bees May Help Save Cropsi
X
Deborah Block
August 22, 2014 12:23 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video Native Bees May Help Save Crops

U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video US Defense Officials Plan for Long-Term Strategy to Contain Islamic State

U.S. defense officials say American air strikes in Iraq have helped deter Islamic State militants for the time being, but that a broad international effort is needed to defeat the extremists permanently. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel warned Thursday that the group formerly known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, is better organized, and financially and militarily stronger than any other known terrorist group. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Drug-Resistant Malaria Spreads in Southeast Asia

On Thailand’s border with Myanmar, also known as Burma, a malaria research and treatment clinic is stepping up efforts to eliminate a drug-resistant form of the parasite - before it spreads abroad. Steve Sandford reports from Mae Sot, Thailand.
Video

Video Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbas

The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Nigeria's 'Nollywood' Movie Industry Rolls in High Gear

Twenty years after its birth in a video shop in Lagos, Nigeria's "Nollywood" is one of the most prolific film industries on earth. Despite low budgets and whirlwind production schedules, Nigerian films are wildly popular in Africa and industry professionals say they hope, in the future, their films will be as great in quality as they are in quantity. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Lagos.
Video

Video UN Launches 'Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years' in Iraq

The United Nations has launched what it describes as one of the biggest aid operations in 30 years in northern Iraq, as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee the extremist Sunni militant group calling itself the Islamic State. As Kurdish and Iraqi forces battle the Sunni insurgents, the fighting has forced more people to flee their homes. Kurdish authorities say the international community must act now to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Cambodian American Hip Hop Artist Sings of Personal Struggles

A growing underground movement of Cambodian American hip hop artists is rapping about the struggles of living in urban America. Most, if not all of them, are refugees or children of refugees who came to the United States from Cambodia to escape the Khmer Rouge genocide of the 1970s. Through their music, the artists hope to give voice to immigrants who have been struggling quietly for years. Elizabeth Lee reports from Long Beach, California.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid