Preventing locust swarms

Letter June 28, 2020
Lack of effective control mechanisms could also cost about 50-70% cereal harvest loss

KARACHI: The coronavirus pandemic has already caused severe economic and food crises in different parts of the world. However, sudden locust attacks could worsen the already existing food insecurity especially in poor countries. According to the International Rescue Committee (IRC), the current locust outbreak — which can be termed as the most severe desert locust attack that has occurred in the last 70 years — can leave 5 million people in East Africa facing starvation.

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) informs that a square-kilometer swarm can consume crops that can feed 35,000 people in a single day. Struggling countries like Ethiopia, Sudan, Somalia, Uganda, and Kenya have been impacted the most by these locust outbreak. Pakistan also struggles to protect its crops and fields as locust swarms have hit almost 43 districts in the country. According to the National Disaster Management Authority, country-wide surveys and spray operations are being conducted to control the spread of the locusts. Nevertheless, controlling locust swarms is no simple task. The larger the swarm, the more challenging it becomes to control it.

Well-developed prevention strategies, adequate resources and an immediate response system are needed to mitigate the impact of the locust outbreak, or else more than 25 million people are expected to suffer from severe food shortage. In case the locust swarms are left uncontrolled and the severity of the issue remains unaddressed at this stage, it would take even more resources and years to control them. Lack of effective control mechanisms could also cost about 50-70% cereal harvest loss. Though prevention itself seems quite complicated since it only takes three locusts to make a swarm, as of now it seems the only cure available. Therefore, efforts for controlling the spread of locusts’ swarm should continue at all costs.

Nayab Iqbal

Published in The Express Tribune, June 28th, 2020.

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