Environment Ministry warns against spread of desert locusts in Horn of Africa

June 12, 2021
File photo of ravenous locust swarms threaten the entire East Africa subregion. — courtesy FAO
File photo of ravenous locust swarms threaten the entire East Africa subregion. — courtesy FAO

RIYADH — The Ministry of Environment, Water, and Agriculture (MEWA) has warned that swarms of desert locusts could invade countries of the Horn of Africa, specifically in Somalia, Ethiopia, and Djibouti within the next few weeks.

The ministry explained that reports by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) show that many groups of locust nymphs are forming in the northwest of the country, and to a lesser extent in the east, with the possibility of the presence of more groups of nymphs in the areas that were not surveyed.

The ministry stressed that despite the ongoing control operations, new swarms are expected to start forming during the next week, and it is likely that breeding will continue in northern Somalia until conditions dry up, however, there remains a risk due to the movement of some swarms north to Yemen and west to Northeast Ethiopia.

The ministry confirmed that the current conditions in the Horn of Africa are ripe for large-scale breeding and an increase in locust numbers in the region, due to the unexpected heavy rains that fell in late April and early May.

It noted that the new swarms, which have formed, are expected to move at a later time this month and during next July, west to northeastern Ethiopia for summer breeding season which lasts from August to October, expected to continue until the end of this year.

With regard to locust spread status in countries neighboring Saudi Arabia, the ministry confirmed the presence of fully grown insects scattered on the plateau north of Wadi Hadramout in Yemen, and near Oman.

The ministry added that the locust fighting campaigns are still ongoing to battle the formation of some locust groups near Zarqa area in Jordan, which was hit by swarms last May, while no locusts were spotted during recent surveys across southern Iran.

Locally, the Ministry said the locust fighting operations are continuing against a small number of groups of middle-aged nymphs in the north of the Al-Jouf region, and immature adult groups in the mountains of the Asir region in the southwest of the Kingdom, as well as in Madinah.

It noted that these fighting campaigns aim to bring the spread of the locusts and migratory plant pests under control through the preparation of curricula and comprehensive plans for exploration and control.

To that extent, FAO underlined the need to carry out exploration and control operations in the eastern Somali region, and all accessible areas in the northern plateau of Somalia.

This move is to minimize chances of swarms formation by discovering and treating as many groups of nymphs as possible, stressing that the situation in the central region is still worrying, and therefore survey and control operations must be increased in Ethiopia, Somalia, and Saudi Arabia, and Yemen. — SPA

June 12, 2021
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