The Scary realities of locust invasions; how Nigerian farmers can be better prepared

May 12, 2020

The desert locust Schistocerca gregaria is a very destructive pest that has been wrecking serious havoc around the world and especially in Africa. Part of the negative effect of climate change is that part of East Africa, Southwest Asia and the area around the Red Sea has become suitable breeding ground for locust. They have the ability to migrate over large distances and rapidly increase in number. They can consume food their own weight (about 2 grams) in a day and food crops and forages are high on their taste bud preference list. This makes them a major threat to food production and if they are not properly controlled, they can cause famine. To avoid this, farmers and stakeholders should start putting measures in place, before the threat becomes real, it is never too early to prepare.

According to FAO, The swarms are highly mobile; to combat them, various issues have to be addressed for example, the terrains are often difficult to navigate and the logistical challenges are immense but if left unchecked and with expected additional rains, the population of locust in East Africa could increase 500 times by June. According to FAO’s National Communication Officer, Mr David Tsokar, Nigeria has no immediate threats. There is currently no prediction that these locust will migrate to Nigeria. However, it is better to be prepared than to be sorry.  (Source; msn.com)

If you are reading this and you are a farmer, you may be wondering what you will do if Mr. David is wrong and we experience locust attack in Nigeria. One of the most common ways is the use of chemical based insecticides; however, persistent use of these insecticides can pose as a serious threat to our environment. Hence it is wise to look into other methods of control and thankfully, we have natural methods of control such as the use of natural predators of locust like wasps, birds and reptiles. Another effective method of controlling locust by using bio-pesticides such as the fungus based green muscle, garlic based insecticides are also effective in controlling locust, they  make the plants unpalatable for the locust hence they repel the locust. (source; https://home.onehowto.com/, https://www.weforum.org/)

Controlling locust can be very difficult therefore it is only wise to avoid it all together!  To achieve this, farmers needs to work in tandem with ministry of agriculture so as to find out where locusts are and spray them before they begin to multiply. The process may be stressful, but it is a very small price to pay to avoid the damage an entire swam of locust can cause to the nation’s food production sector. The Desert Locust Information Service (DLIS) from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) collaborates with the National Locust Units to collate, summarize and analyze field data (e.g., vegetation, rainfall, locust and control information) in order to assess the current situation and forecast the scale, timing and location of locust breeding and migration. (source;http://iridl.ldeo.columbia.edu/). This information can be used to monitor and control locust.

From all indication, the control of locust will require the collective effort of an entire nation.  Not just farmers alone. Therefore awareness must be made, so that every hand will be on deck to combat these pests. If you see a locust, kill it immediately before it becomes a problem. If our collective efforts to prevent the infestation however fails, we must get our insecticides, wasps and birds ready.

We have enough to deal with already, with the pandemic and lockdown barely giving anyone breathing space, adding locust invasion to list of the problems may wreck the camels’ back. We remain hopeful while we urge farmers to prepare contingency plans.

 

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