Plague Of Locusts: Is Madagascar In Danger?
A plague of locusts has descended upon Madagascar, the island nation of 22 million people located off the southeastern coast of Africa. According to the U.N.'s Food and Agricultural Organization, or FAO, this is the worst plague of locusts to hit the island since the 1950s.
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In a press release dated March 26, the FAO says Madagascar needs more than $41 million in aid to soften the damage caused by the plague of locusts, with $22 million needed by June and an additional $19 million needed over the next three years.
Annie Monard, a locust control expert with FAO, told the BBC that if nothing is done, the plague of locusts in Madagascar could last for five to ten years.
Right now, flying swarms of locusts numbering in the billions inflict over half of the island of Madagascar. According to FAO, two-thirds of the island country will be infested by locusts by September. The locusts destroy pasture for livestock and devour rice crops, Madagascar's chief crop.
According to the World Bank, 70 percent of Madagascar's population is considered poor and 59 percent is extremely poor, with two-thirds of those considered extremely poor living in rural areas of the island. The farming population is among the poorest in the country. The country has an extremely high rate of food insecurity and malnutrition, according to FAO, and Hunger threatens more than half of the island's 22 million people.
"Failure to respond now will lead to massive food aid requirements later on," said Dominique Burgeon, Director of the FAO Emergency and Rehabilitation Division.
IRIN reported in February that international donors provided $7.4 million to fight the locust outbreak of 2010-2011 -- only half of what was needed - and that last year, funding dropped by 26 percent.
The current plague of locusts began in Oct. 2012 at the onset of the rainy season. Efforts were made to mitigate the damage, with the national Locust Control Center treating 30,000 hectares of farmland, but limited resources have since made further treatment impossible. The situation was made much worse in late February by Cyclone Haruna, which destroyed homes and damaged crops and also made for prime breeding conditions for the locusts, which can produce a new generation almost every two months. Each insect eats roughly its own body weight in vegetation every day. The FAO says 100,000 hectares of farmland still need to be treated.
The FAO has mapped out a plan to combat the plague of locusts in Madagascar. The three-year effort will involve establishing and training a Locust Watch Unit to monitor and analyze the locust epidemic; surveying; monitoring locust control efforts and training in pesticide and spraying operations.
"All the operations will be implemented in respect of human health and the environment," the FAO said. The FAO hopes to treat 1.5 million hectares of crops in 2013-2014.
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