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Locust plague campaign gets results in Madagascar

Photo: ©FAO/Yasuyoshi Chiba

Locusts can affect the food security of millions of people.

19 December 2013, Rome - Control operations are continuing in Madagascar against an invasion of the Malagasy Migratory Locust, a voracious insect threatening rice and maize crops and therefore the food security and livelihoods of millions of people.

Jointly prepared by FAO and the Government of Madagascar, the three-year Programme in response to the locust plague is implemented and coordinated by FAO in close collaboration with the Government. The programme is composed of three successive locust control campaigns with the last one ending in 2016.

"We are using helicopters and vehicles to carry out survey and control operations," explained Said Lagnaoui, FAO's locust campaign coordinator. "We are using different pesticides chosen to have as little negative impact on the environment as possible."

The pesticides are registered in Madagascar for locust control and listed in the FAO Pesticide Referee Group report. The use of biopesticide formulated with an entomopathogenic fungus - which essentially acts as a parasite specific to locusts - is also planned in sensitive areas.

On 30 November, after less than one month of control operations, hopper bands and groups of locust adults have been killed on almost 50 000 hectares.

"The maize and rice crops have just started and they are threatened. We are trying hard to avoid or at least reduce the damage," Lagnaoui said.

"The objective of this programme is to protect the food security of this rural world, of these farmers who only have what they can grow for survival," he said.

Four million people food insecure

The locust invasion, which started in April 2012, has damaged crops and discouraged farmers in affected areas from planting. The poor south of the Indian Ocean island nation has been particularly hard hit.

An FAO-World Food Programme mission conducted in June/July 2013 found that as many as 4 million people in rural areas of Madagascar were food insecure following the 2012/2013 reduced harvest and another 9.6 million people were at risk of food insecurity.

The mission report blamed the poor agricultural season - a national rice deficit of 240 000 tonnes was expected for the 2013/14 marketing year - on a combination of factors: erratic weather conditions last year, cyclones early this year followed by a period of poor rains, and the locust invasion.

A total of US$ 26.3 million in support of the locust programme have been provided so far by the Government of Madagascar through a World Bank loan, Austria, Belgium, the United States, Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, France, Italy, Norway and the European Union.

Lagnaoui said the first year of the locust campaign was fully funded, but that there was a funding gap of about US $17.7 million to cover the second and third years.

Funds pay for:

  • aerial survey and control operations;
  • improving the monitoring and analysis of the locust situations;
  • strengthening national locust control capacity;
  • monitoring and mitigating the impact of control operations on human health and the environment;
  • assessing the effectiveness of each locust campaign and the impact of locusts on crops and pasture.