Horn of Africa nations continue their battles with a desert locust outbreak that is affecting the Red Sea region, where February rains have promoted a second generation of the insect breeding that began in December. New swarms are expected to form at the end of the month.
“Once vegetation begins to dry out, adult groups and a few swarms are likely to move north along the Red Sea coast in Eritrea to Sudan, and from the Red Sea coast of Sudan to the Nile Valley in northern Sudan,” said the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO). The agency monitors desert locust outbreaks, which can have devastating impacts on crops and regional food supplies.
Ground and air crews are trying to control the spread in Egypt and Saudi Arabia as well. There is a moderate to high risk of locust impacts to the regional food chain forecast through March.
The FAO says the locusts are always present in the deserts that stretch between Mauritania and India, but the favorable breeding conditions can lead to the swarming and later stages of outbreak, upsurge and plague if left uncontrolled.
“Swarms are often tens of square kilometers in size,” the FAO explains, warning that a swarm of just one square kilometer eats the same amount of food in one day as 35,000 people. “A swarm the size of Bamako (Mali) or Niamey (Niger) can consume what half the population of either country would eat in a single day.”
The swarms also can travel 50 to 100 kilometers a day, making it harder for insect control to keep up.
Image: World Economic Forum