Madagascar needs more than $22 million of funding by June to fight a “severe” locust plague that has infested half of the world’s fourth-largest island, the United Nations’ Food & Agriculture Organization said.
The funding would allow the FAO and Madagascar’s farm ministry to spray swarms of billions of plant-devouring locusts, the Rome-based UN agency wrote in a report today. The plague threatens 60 percent of the island’s staple rice crop, it said.
A locust swarm can consume as much as 100,000 metric tons per day of green vegetation, including crops, and failure to tackle the plague now will lead to “massive” food-aid needs later, the FAO said. Madagascar, home to 22.6 million people, is the world’s second-largest producer of vanilla and cloves, FAO data show.
“We know from experience that this plague will require three years of anti-locust campaigns,” Annie Monard, the FAO’s senior locust officer, was cited as saying in the statement. “Campaigns in past years were underfunded, and unfortunately it means not all locust infestations were controlled.”
An additional $19 million will be needed for a three-year control strategy, the FAO said. Immediate funds are required to buy supplies, set up an aerial survey and control operations, according to Monard.
Madagascar asked the FAO for technical and financial assistance in December to fight the locusts. An estimated two- thirds of the country will be affected by the locust plague by September if no action is taken, the FAO said.
Cyclone Haruna flooded rice fields in the country’s southwest in February, worsening the locust plague by creating “ideal breeding conditions,” according to the FAO.
About 30,000 hectares (74,130 acres) of farmland has been treated against locusts since the start of the six-month rainy season in October, while another 100,000 hectares hasn’t been due to limited government capacity, the agency said.
The FAO’s strategy to fight the plague calls for “large- scale” aerial operations, spraying 1.5 million hectares in 2013-14, falling to 500,000 hectares in the second year and 150,000 in the third, the agency wrote.
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