USD 1.55 million in IFAD grants will battle desert locusts in West Africa

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USD 1.55 million in IFAD grants will battle desert locusts in West Africa

Press release number: IFAD 30/04

Rome 20 September 2004: To stop the spread of the desert locust the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) has approved USD 1.55 million in grants. The 12 grants will also help to form the basis for longer-term solutions to prevent future attacks.

So far, emergency efforts to spray locust-infested fields have not been sufficient to contain the large swarms sweeping across more than ten countries in northern and western Africa, devouring crops and grasses.

“Harvests are at risk for many small farmers who depend on these crops to feed themselves and their families” says Lennart Båge, President of IFAD. “Locusts are stripping clean their farms and pushing them deeper into poverty. We need to act now to prevent large-scale human suffering.”

Ten of the twelve grants will provide immediate assistance to train personnel, pay for supplies and equip laboratories in Algeria, Burkina Faso, Chad, The Gambia, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Senegal and Sudan. Another two grants, totalling USD 0.5 million, will be used to continue efforts to offer long-term solutions to recurring outbreaks of desert locusts throughout Africa.

Since the 1980s, IFAD has worked along with its United Nations partners, especially the Food and Agriculture Organization, to test biologically-friendly control methods that treat locust invasions while protecting the health of livestock and the environment. Pheromones are used to disorient the locusts, preventing them from swarming. Another safe option, the naturally occurring fungus Metarhizium, is sprayed on locusts, invading them and killing them within one to two weeks.

“Rural poor people live a fragile existence,” says Ahmed Sidahmed, IFAD’s desert locust task manager. “We need to make sure that the substances we use today don’t harm the soils, water or the livestock they depend on for the future.”

The grants will pay to train people to use these new techniques and also strengthen the capacity of countries to detect the signals that a locust invasion is imminent. For instance abundant rains last year created the conditions that lead to locust outbreaks moist sandy soil, some open bare land for egg laying and green vegetation to provide food for the juvenile insects. Outbreaks are much easier to treat when the insects are young, solitary and still unable to fly. Once they take flight and join other locusts in a swarm, it’s a frustrating race against time.

In the late 1980s, IFAD had success testing new techniques to battle another pest, the New World screwworm, the larvae of the screwworm fly. IFAD and 25 partners launched a pilot programme to eradicate this highly destructive livestock pest using the sterile insect technique. This method releases sterilized flies that mate with other flies and impede further reproduction. By the time the full campaign was under way in 1991, the screwworm had been almost completely eradicated.

IFAD is a specialized agency of the United Nations dedicated to combating rural poverty in the most disadvantaged regions of the world. Since 1978, IFAD has invested USD 8.2 billion in 660 rural development projects and programmes, about 250 million rural people have been supported in their efforts to overcome poverty.