- After a fourth invasion of desert locusts from the West African mainland to the Cape Verde archipelago, efforts to fight the pest are now increasing. The government of Morocco, which soon awaits the return of locusts crossing the Sahara, has promised to send aircrafts and specialists to Cape Verde to stop the locusts' spread.
The Moroccan government is to aid Cape Verde in its fight against the desert locust, as the plague is reaching the archipelago each time eastern winds transport them from the African mainland. This weekend, the forth wave of locusts arrives, reaching even the most westerly islands of Cape Verde. The island of Santo Antão is specially hit by the plague.
Morocco's offer to send aircrafts and specialists comes following an appeal Cape Verdean authorities made to their foreign partners in order to strengthen the means used to combat the swarm of desert locusts that settled on the island of Santo Antão and other islands.
Several localities on Santo Antão - mainly in the municipalities of Paúl and Ribeira Grande - in a very short time have seen more than 30 percent of their crops destroyed by the insects coming from the continent.
Carla Tavares, the director of plant protection at Cape Verde's Ministry of Environment, Agriculture and Fishing told 'A Semana' that since July, Cape Verde has registered the presence of desert locusts on a number of different islands, but that the situation took a turn for the worse this past weekend.
- At the moment, Morocco is ready to make airplanes available to us, said Ms Tavares, "but we are analysing what type of air support is needed considering the terrain of the Cape Verde islands," the director added.
According to Ms Tavares, a Moroccan specialist is scheduled to arrive in Cape Verde today to help the country in its combat against the locust plague.
Despite the gravity of the situation in Santo Antão, Ms Tavares is hopeful regarding this year's agricultural season. According to her, the most significant damage so far has been seen in Santo Antão. "On the other islands, the infestation [of desert locusts] has been in pastures and reforested zones or along the coasts. The insects have not yet attacked crops in particular."
Several weeks ago the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) made escudos 15 million (euro 135,000) available to Cape Verde for the acquisition of pesticides and other means aimed at combating the desert locusts.
The current situation represents one of the largest locust plagues on record in Africa in the past twenty years. The entire Sahel zone, from Chad in the east to Senegal and Mauritania in the west, is infested by the pest and this year's good harvests are under heavy attack in the region.
According to locust experts from FAO, the locusts are now about to leave the Sahel zone as fields, forests and pastures are drying. The swarms are expected to mostly head north-wards and reach Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Libya within few weeks.
To prevent a re-infection of locusts from the Sahel, these North African countries have provided much aid to Mauritania, Mali and Niger, where the uphill fight against the locusts has been held. Aircrafts, pesticides and specialists have been sent to the poorer southern neighbours, which have not had the means to fight the pest.
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