ROME, Italy, February 21, 2013/African Press Organization (APO)/ — The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) is working in partnership with the Egypt and Sudan governments to control the latest threat from desert locusts.
The FAO Emergency Centre for Locust Operations based at FAO Headquarters in Rome has defined the current situation as ‘threat’ level. There are four levels in total: calm, caution, threat and danger.
The Cairo-based FAO Commission for Controlling the Desert Locust in the Central Region (known as the CRC) is in close and constant contact with the General Department for Locust Affairs and Agro-aviation within the Ministry of Agriculture in Egypt, and the Plant Protection Directorate within Sudan’s Ministry of Agriculture.
Since 2006, the Commission has worked constantly to strengthen surveillance, information sharing and responses to outbreaks across the countries of the region in order to reduce the risks on agricultural production and livelihoods (these countries are Egypt, Sudan, Djibouti, Bahrain, Eritrea, Ethiopia Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Syria, United Arab Emirates and Yemen). This has included training Ministry staff in early-detection surveillance and control methods including aerial and ground spraying and organizing joint surveys of desert locust in the breeding areas along both sides of the common border of member countries. The Commission continuously supports and provides the member countries with the necessary references and information regarding desert locust, and with research results and documentations in English and Arabic.
Desert locust groups were detected in Egypt in November 2012 and initial control operations were performed. In small pockets of a large, remote area of land covering south-eastern Egypt and north-eastern Sudan egg-laying occurred in December and January 2013.
In both countries, survey and control teams have been regularly working in the field undertaking the necessary operations. This is part of the preventive control strategy that the CRC is implementing in the frontline member countries of the Central Region, namely, Egypt, Sudan, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Saudi Arabia, Oman and Yemen.
As the current situation is creating concerns about the possibilities that these swarms can ravage agricultural lands in Egypt and Sudan, Mr. Mamoon AlAlawi, FAO Secretary of the Commission for Controlling the Desert Locust in the Central Region has answered the following questions about the current situation:
What is the current situation?
The locusts currently present in small pockets of a large, remote area covering south-eastern Egypt and North-eastern Sudan are hopper bands (meaning that they are in early stages of their growth and can’t fly) or are immature. The latter type needs timely control responses as they can fly from one location to another.
Was there enough early warning?
Desert locusts are present all the time in remote areas. When conditions become favorable desert locusts breed and produce a second generation in low numbers. The first warning about the current situation of desert locust in Egypt was made at the end of last summer, triggering timely and appropriate government responses.
How can the desert locust be controlled?
As of now, the primary method to control desert locust infestations are insecticides applied in small concentrated doses either by vehicle-mounted or aerial sprayers at ultra-low volume (ULV).
Bio-pesticides (Green Muscle fungus) are also in use and applied in the same way as chemical insecticides, though they do not kill as quickly. At recommended doses, the fungus can take 5 -7 days to kill the locusts. For that reason, they are recommended mainly against hoppers, the wingless early stages of locusts. Hoppers are mostly found in the desert, far from cropping areas, where the delay in death does not result in damage. The advantage of bio-pesticides is that they affect only locusts and are much safer than chemical insecticides.
How does the warning system work?
Early warning and preventive control is the strategy adopted by FAO through the Emergency Prevention System (EMPRES). EMPRES tries to stop locust plagues from developing and spreading.
To monitor the weather, ecological conditions and the locust situation on a daily basis FAO’s headquarters uses the Desert Locust Information Service (DLIS). DLIS combines results of survey and control operations carried out by national teams in affected countries with satellite data, rainfall estimates and seasonal temperature predictions to assess the current situation and forecast the timing, scale and location of breeding and migration up to six weeks in advance.
How serious is the current situation?
The winter breeding period is about to end and the current number of swarms is relatively limited. If no more rains fall then additional breeding will not occur and locust numbers will gradually decline due to control operations. If rains do fall, then government efforts are required to control the infestations and protect winter crops. FAO is continuing to closely monitor the situation. The latest information is available at FAO’s Locust Watch website: www.fao.org/ag/locusts/en/info/info/index.html