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Locusts 400 Kilometers From Darfur - 2004-08-11

The locusts that have literally been plaguing north and west Africa are now only several hundred kilometers from Sudan?s Darfur region. The region is already the scene of possible genocide with a reported 50-thousand dead and more than one million people displaced. Fighting between government forces and rebels has been going on for more than a year, despite a ceasefire agreement signed in April.

Dr. Clive Elliot is the senior officer of the locust group of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization. From Rome, he spoke to English to Africa reporter Joe De Capua about why the agency thinks the locusts may be heading for Sudan.

Dr. Elliot says, ?The general trend of the movement is from the large infestations which existed in northwest Africa, meaning Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Libya. And those large-scale infestations were heavily controlled by the national governments in those countries. But because of the widespread nature of the infestations some swarms inevitably escape. And at this time of the year, their general movement is south and southeast. So many swarms have arrived in Mauritania, Mali and Niger and just in the last few days two swarms have been reported from Chad.?

One of those swarms is said to be about 400 kilometers from the Sudanese border.

Darfur is described as a vast expanse with much desert and currently in the rainy season. Dr. Elliot says the locusts prefer moist, sandy soil to plant their eggs after having first devoured any green vegetation in the area. He says the infestation could have a major impact on the next farming season, providing the fighting has not already disrupted it. Aerial spraying is the best weapon against such large infestations.

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