Field teams combating swarms of migratory locusts that descended upon 2,700 hectares of farmland in western Yemen say they have the situation under control.
“The locusts have not caused damage since they are found on acacia trees, and our teams are working hard to halt their spread,” Abdu Far’e al-Rumaih, General Director of the Desert Locusts Control Centre (DLCC) at the agriculture ministry, told IRIN on Sunday.
He added that four teams, consisting of 28 men with six vehicles, had so far decontaminated 450 hectares of the locust-infected Ras Katheeb area of the Red Sea coastal province of al-Hudeidah, 226km from Sana’a, the capital.
“The teams will fumigate the whole invaded area until 21 March. Residents, who are helping our teams, have taken their animals to other areas,” he said, ruling out the possibility of more locust swarms in other areas.
Al-Rumaih added that there were about 15 to 30 locusts in each square metre of the swarm. With one hectare being the equivalent of 10,000 square metres, an estimated 150,000 to 300,000 locusts would be in Yemen’s swarm.
According to specialists, an adult locust can consume its own weight, two grams, in food per day. A small swarm can eat as much food in a day as 2,500 people and is therefore capable of destroying a crop field in seconds. Nearly all crops, and non-crop plants, are at risk.
Last month, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warned that there could be a locust invasion in Yemen in March after a spate in nearby Eritrea in December 2006 and after seeing locust numbers continue to increase during January along the coast between Massawa in Eritrea and the Sudanese border.
As such, Yemen’s Ministry of Agriculture had already put in place an emergency plan to combat any locust invasions. The plan included the selection of nearly 300 people to fumigate locust swarms with 14 sprayers in 14 vehicles.
Yemen is at the crossroads of swarm migrations originating from eastern countries - such as India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran and Oman - and central areas – such as the rest of the Arabian Gulf, Sudan and the Horn of Africa.
Swarms from any of these places could reach Yemen, depending on the level of locust breeding, prevailing winds and rains, specialists say. The country witnessed damaging locust invasions in 1986, 1987, 1993 and 1998, with 1993 having a particularly serious outbreak. Additional outbreaks in 2002 and 2004 were successfully controlled.
There are two types of locusts crossing Yemen: the desert locust and the African migratory locust, which is most common in Yemen’s coastal areas.
This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions