YEMEN: Desert locust infestation yet to be controlled

Yemen’s Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation says the current desert locusts’ invasion has entered a dangerous phase. Swarms of locusts have infested both the south and the north, posing a threat to agricultural crops.

Agriculture Minister Mansour Ahmed al -Hawshabi said on 20 August that the problem had become severe owing to the spread of the swarms to eight of the country’s governorates, and he called for greater efforts to control them.

He said the locusts, if not controlled, might head for other countries, including Saudi Arabia, Oman, Pakistan and Iran. Last week a swarm of desert locusts from Yemen invaded Al-Mazyounah District in Oman’s southern region of Dhofar, according to the Omani Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries.

The Desert Locust Control Centre (DLCC) said on 18 August that a new swarm of desert locusts had descended over 30 to 40sqkm between Seyoun and Shibam in the south. The density of the locusts was very high, and if moved, could threaten agricultural land. Desert locusts have also reached areas in the north, and there are fears that new swarms might head for Tihamah, a Red Sea coastal plain which is rich in agricultural crops.

The DLCC said that by 15 August, it had sprayed over 28,812 hectares and had also used planes, but the situation was still not under control.

Field teams had faced problems spraying locusts in Thamoud due to a dispute with beehive owners: Some locals thought the pesticides might harm them, which led to a lack of cooperation between farmers and the field teams. DLCC officials said they could not control the locusts in Thamoud as a result.

This is the worst infestation of its kind in Yemen in almost 15 years. Specialists say rains have contributed to the spread of the locusts. Yemen imports about 75 percent of its food, according to government statistics, and any damage to the country’s crops would not lead to a food crisis. However, livelihoods could be affected.

UN assistance

In late July, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) said Yemen had received a pesticide donation from Mauritania to help combat the outbreak. The donated chemicals were transported by air to Yemen in a joint operation between the WFP and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

FAO locust expert Christian Pantenius said: “Mauritania’s pesticide donation shows the country’s commitment to the global control of desert locusts. With the arrival of aircraft and pesticides, a massive control campaign can be launched over a large and remote area of rough terrain.”

“WFP’s logistical strength, combined with FAO’s technical expertise and operational assistance, mean we are in a strong position to provide valuable support to the government of Yemen at this critical time,” said Mohamed El-Kouhene, a WFP representative in Yemen.

The WFP mission includes an expert who will assess the impact of the pests on peoples’ livelihoods and access to food.

Source: IRIN

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