ROME, ITALY — Croplands in Niger and Mali are at imminent risk from Desert Locust swarms that are moving southward from Algeria and Libya, the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warned on June 5.
Groups of locusts have recently been found in northern Niger, arriving from infestations further north.
FAO said locust-control efforts in the region are being hindered by continued insecurity along both sides of the Algerian-Libyan border. Political insecurity and conflict in Mali could also hamper monitoring and control efforts if the locusts reach that country.
Locust infestations were first reported in southwest Libya near Ghat in January 2012 and in southeast Algeria.
In late March, FAO warned that swarms could arrive in Niger and Mali by June. Continued rains and the resulting growth of vegetation led to the formation of swarms by mid-May.
“How many locusts there are and how far they move will depend on two major factors – the effectiveness of current control efforts in Algeria and Libya and upcoming rainfall in the Sahel of West Africa,” said Keith Cressman, FAO Senior Locust Forecasting Officer.
Both Algeria and Libya have been working hard to treat infested areas, covering a total of 40,000 hectares in Algeria and 21,000 hectares in Libya as of the end of May.
"In a normal year, Algeria and Libya would have been able to control most of the local swarms and prevent their movement towards the south, but insecurity along both sides of the Algerian-Libyan border is getting in the way of full access by local teams and by FAO experts who need to assess the situation. Libya’s capacity to carry out control efforts has also been affected in the past year,” Cressman said.
Niger last faced Desert Locust swarms during the 2003-05 plague that affected farmers in two dozen countries.
The FAO Commission for Controlling the Desert Locust in the Western Region (CLCPRO) has provided $300,000 in funding to tackle locust infestations in Libya, and FAO has added an additional $400,000 to address the problem.