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Locusts Swarms Leave Somalia, Ethiopia and Head for India, Pakistan

Most of the locust problems may be over in parts of Ethiopia and northern Somalia. But the good news for those countries may be bad news for others.

Keith Cressman is a locust expert for the UN Food and Agriculture Organization. From Rome, he spoke to VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about the swarms that were in Ethiopia and Somalia.

“The origin of these swarms in both eastern Ethiopia and northern Somalia goes back really to earlier this year, when there was an outbreak on the northwestern coast of Somalia against the Djibouti border. That outbreak was not controlled. As a result some swarms formed there. They moved up towards the border of Ethiopia and Somalia, where they laid eggs in the springtime. Those eggs hatched and the resulting hoppers then formed the swarms that were recently reported in both countries,” he says.

Weather conditions determined which way the locusts would go. “What happened...about the first half of June, those swarms started to leave eastern Ethiopia. They moved across the border into northern Somalia, first to Hargeisa, and then they continued to move east along a convergent zone of wind, reaching the very northeastern tip of Somalia, an area referred to as Puntland,” he says.

It only took three or four days for the swarms to move through the area, some 800 kilometers, apparently leaving Somalia and Ethiopia altogether. But countries downwind may be hit hard.

“Those swarms probably have moved out into the Indian Ocean and they’re in the process of crossing the ocean, expecting to land in the coastal areas of Pakistan and northwestern India,” says Cressman.

The FAO expert says the conditions are ripe for a major infestation. “They are indeed extremely favorable, much more favorable than normal at this time of year and that’s mainly due to the recent cyclones…that passed through the Bombay area and up the coast…and into the western coastal areas of Pakistan. As a result of the cyclone very heavy rains fell and there was flooding. So the conditions for breeding will become