Locust plague threatens Madagascar's agriculture

13 August 2010 - 08:47
By Sapa dpa

ROME, Italy - A locust plague is threatening Madagascar's agriculture, putting at risk some 460000 rural families, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation has warned.

Some $15 million (about R105 million) in funding is urgently needed to mount a ground and air campaign targeting some 500,000 hectares of land, the Rome-based FAO said.

Measures would include aerial surveillance to monitor the currently unknown number of immature swarms of Malagasy migratory locusts that have moved out of the island nation's southwestern corner - where they are usually contained - and have begun to spread east and north, FAO said.

Preparing bio-pesticide sprays, as well as stockpiling resources and equipment, is also planned ahead of Madagascar's rainy season - which begins in mid-October - to stop locust numbers from growing and prevent them from reaching plague proportions.

Madagascar is currently in its dry and cool season, which is unsuitable for locust breeding. But the wet and hot weather of the rainy season will favour rapid reproduction, FAO said.

Locusts can produce a new generation roughly every two months and up to four during one year.

An adult locust can consume roughly its own weight in fresh food per day - about two grams. A very small part of an average swarm eats the same amount of food in one day as about 2500 people, FAO said.