Madagascar needs more than $41 million to eliminate the severe locust plague that is threatening the country’s crop production as well as the food security of more than half of the country’s population, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said today.
According to FAO, $22 million is needed by June to fight the plague through a large-scale aerial spraying campaign, and an additional $19 million is required to implement a three-year strategy to address this national disaster.
“We know from experience that this plague will require three years of anti-locust campaigns. We need funds now to procure supplies and to timely set-up the aerial survey and control operations,” said Senior Officer and Coordinator of the FAO locust response, Annie Monard.
About half of Madagascar is currently infested by hoppers and flying swarms. Each swarm is made up of billions of plant-devouring insects. In November, the ministry of agriculture declared a national disaster in view of the deteriorating situation and in December it requested technical and financial assistance from FAO to coordinate and implement an emergency response.
The agency estimates that about two-thirds of the island country will be affected by the locust plague by September if no action is taken. “Failure to respond now will lead to massive food aid requirements later on,” said the Director of the FAO Emergency and Rehabilitation Division, Dominique Burgeon.
The plague now threatens 60 per cent of the country’s rice production, a staple crop in Madagascar, where 80 per cent of the population lives on less than $1 per day. The locust swarms are also consuming green vegetation that might normally serve as pasture for livestock.
FAO said nearly 60 per cent of the island’s 22 million people could be threatened by a significant worsening of hunger in a country that already has extremely high rates of food insecurity and malnutrition. In the poorest southern regions, where the plague started, around 70 per cent of households are food insecure.
While the Government has treated some 30,000 hectares of farmland since the rainy season began in October, some 100,000 hectares have not been treated due to limited capacity. In February the situation was worsened by Cyclone Haruna, which created optimal conditions for locusts to breed.
The FAO strategy would entail carrying out a spraying operation, treating some 1.5 million hectares during the first year, 500,000 hectares in the second year and 150,000 hectares in the third and last year. All the operations would be implemented in respect of human health and the environment, the agency said in a news release. The strategy would also entail training a locust watch unit to monitor the situation, aerial and ground survey operations and monitoring control operations to preserve the environment.