Locusts attack is putting millions of lives at risk of starvation

by Anuja Khanal

Locusts; insects related to grasshoppers, form enormous swarms that spread across regions, devouring crops and leaving serious agricultural damage in their wake.

Locust swarms devastate crops and cause major agricultural damage, which can lead to famine and starvation. Locusts occur in many parts of the world, but today locusts are most destructive in subsistence farming regions of Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia.

They fly in swarms of millions, and quite rapidly the bigger swarm breaks into small swarms, affecting different parts of the country. They travel tens of miles in a day and have tremendous endurance.

They can remain in the air for a long time, covering huge distances. They are capable of doing massive crop damage. If not checked, they can clear outfields in a few hours. Each insect can eat as much as it weighs.

Within the region affected, 24 million people are food insecure and 8 million are internally displaced.  The locusts further threaten their food security and their ability to access pasture for livestock.  These impacts on the food cycle could drastically threaten livelihoods, erode people’s savings, and push people further into poverty.

The cost of response during the last major locust outbreak of locusts in 2003-05 in West Africa, grew from $1 million in June 2003 to $100 million just 14 months later. Ultimately, it cost over $450 million to end the 2003-2005 plague, which caused an estimated $2.5 billion in crop damage.

“Locusts can be scared away by producing noise by beating of drums and utensils. Chemicals, especially Chlorpyriphos 20 EC diluted in water, can be sprinkled on crops. Currently, the most commonly used control is insecticide. Sprayed from land or aerial vehicles, whole swarms can be targeted in relatively short periods of time. However, this has led to some environmental concerns.

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