- Several locust swarms this week devastated vegetable gardens and pastures in three provinces in central parts of The Gambia. Rice crops and flowering mangos were also reported to be in danger. FAO described the swarms as "left-overs" from the recent regional plague.
The locust plague in West Africa currently is said to be mostly over as swarms have moved to North Africa. Large-scale control operations there are to prevent the locusts from again crossing the Sahara desert. Local incidents in the Sahel however show that the locust threat still is real in the region.
Several immature swarms have arrived in the Gambian provinces of Central River, North Bank and Upper River divisions during the last week. According to reports from The Gambia, the swarms made only a quick but rather devastating visit in these central parts of the country.
There were reports of serious threats to food production on several local societies as vegetable gardens were totally eliminated. Further, there were damages to the flowering mango and other fruit trees, rice crops in the lowlands and to some degree the pastures. Most of this year's crops have however been harvested several weeks ago.
Control operations were immediately launched, according to the UN's food and agriculture agency, FAO. These control measures mostly comprised of insecticide spraying after the locusts already had done damage. Spaying was done from vehicles as no airplanes or helicopters were available.
According to FAO, the swarms now entering The Gambia are "left over from late summer breeding in the Sahel" and are coming from eastern Senegal and western Mali. "They are probably limited in number and the risk of additional incoming swarms should decline," the UN agency forecasts.
There are however still many active locust swarms all over the Sahel, although their size cannot be compared to the disaster earlier this year. "Groups of immature adults are present in northern Mali and in Tamesna in northwest Niger," FAO says.
The largest locust problem presently is found in North Africa. In Algeria, more immature swarms have arrived in the south from the Sahel, along the Libyan border and along the Moroccan border. Intensive aerial and ground control operations continue against immature swarms in Morocco and Algeria, primarily in the valleys and plateaux of the Atlas Mountains, according to FAO.
- The majority of the swarms will stay immature and remain there until spring, providing a good opportunity to reduce locust numbers significantly in the next four months, the UN agency adds. Control operations were also in progress in Mauritania, while other immature locusts were observed along the border of Libya and Egypt.
- Additional international assistance is required to supplement major efforts already under way and to prevent the situation from deteriorating further, FAO added. The control operations so far have been marred with lack of funds and materials.
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