As the rainy season approaches in southern Africa, fears are rising of a locust infestation

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As South Africa prepares for the rainy season, people fear a new locust plague. A similar plague has spread to East Africa this year. Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia and more recently Angola have already been affected.

Matthew Abang, crop production officer at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in South Africa, said the effects on rural areas were already significant. The South African Development Association (SADC) estimates that 45 million people will face food shortages.

The experience of locust infestation in East Africa proves that local cooperation and the economy are low, making it even more difficult to prevent unsatisfactory herds.

As Zimbabwean farmers prepare to plant their crops before the November rainy season, freshly hatched locusts await. This means that the already difficult humanitarian situation in Zimbabwe is likely to deteriorate further.

“The May harvest is bad,” said Regina Finn, a German NGO based in Weltungerhilfe, Zimbabwe. “The country has been facing drought for two years and the economy is on its knees. The Ministry of Agriculture does not have the required pesticides. We have already been asked if we can supply these.”

Meanwhile, locusts are rampant in neighboring Zambia. Zambia and affected neighboring countries closely identify and monitor hotspots in the FAO emergency plan. This involves killing the locusts before they are collected en masse.
The FAO provided technology and funding to suppress locust groups with chemicals. However, top-up stocks of pesticides remain a big challenge.

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