“No locust has ever flew from the breeding areas to other parts of Eritrea nor to neighboring countries”

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The desert locust (Schitocera Gregaria), a voracious insect, is a species of locust classified in the family of swarming short-horned grasshopper. It is known to be one of the most dangerous migratory locust pests as it can fly for many hours rapidly covering vast distances. The short-horned grasshopper forms large swarms posing a major threat to crops.

To mitigate the surge of the locust countries prone to the breeding of desert locust work in collaboration with FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization) and to contain infestations, Eritrea is a member of the two regional organizations -- the CRC (Commission for Controlling the Desert Locust in the Central region) and the DLCO-EA (Desert Locust Control Organization - East Africa).

Like other countries on the coastline of the Red Sea, Eritrea is at the front line of Desert Locust breeding grounds. The winter breeding area on the Eastern lowlands covers around 47384 kilometer square from Rasdumera, bordering Djibouti, to Raskesar bordering Sudan. In winter the breeding time starts in September and lasts until May. In the Western low lands, the locust breeds in summer from June to September.

Eritrea is a springboard for the spread of locust. For this reason the Government and People of Eritrea are always alert to control the spread of the locust.

Food security is one of Eritrea’s major goals; the Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) has been vigilant in its fight against pests, with ground operations put in place every breeding season. It has mobilized manpower and outlay to survey and control breeding areas before the spread of a possible outbreak.

Speaking to local media outlets Mr. Huruy Asghedom, Director General of MOA’s Department of Agricultural Extension, explained that Eritrea’s vast breeding area is a threat for itself and other neighboring countries. Throughout the years, MOA has designed effective strategies and action plans for prevention before potential upsurge. According to Mr. Huruy, MOA also has a contingency plan for broader regulations.

The MOA migratory pests control unit team in charge of this mission, along with its regional experts, scouts and farmers who live in the breeding areas, conducts a regular survey every summer and winter equipped with GPS and other equipment and online reporting system.

When an outbreak occurs the teams on the ground take immediate action to control the spread. Their work often stars at dawn and lasts till late in the afternoon. After a very short break in the evening, the team holds regular meetings. They send their meeting minutes via SMS to the responsible office at the Ministry’s Head Quarter in Asmara. Upon received minutes throughout the week, the Eritrean Minister of Agriculture, Arefaine Berhe conducts regular meetings with concerned experts after which needed decisions are taken immediately.

A high-level body headed by the Minister of Agriculture conducts regular weekly meeting to assess desert locust situation and to take immediate actions.

In answering if there are any challenges that the MOA faces in surveying and controlling the breeding grounds and the spread of the locust, Mr. Huruy says that the breeding area is so vast that it is difficult to survey every spot using the available technology. The vehicles and spraying equipment need upgrading. Also, the absence of mobile garages makes the maintenance of cars and equipment difficult.

Thanks to the Ministry’s and the people’s seriousness in handling this matter, in Eritrea, the Desert Locust never flew from the breeding sites to either the central parts of Eritrea or the neighboring countries. In fact, inhabitants of the central parts of Eritrea have almost forgotten about the existence of the locust. However, Mr. Huruy says that it is important for the people to be aware about the experts’ and the people’s efforts invested in the breeding areas as it is, indeed, a cause that the MOA, its professionals –most of whom are young experts– concerned authorities as well as farmers are highly devoted to.

On regards to information sharing Mr. Huruy says that the MOA takes serious measures in giving and receiving information from different organizations. The MOA works closely with many organizations, including CRC, DLCO-EA, SWAC, CLCPRO.

During his work visit from the 12th to the 14th of March, Mr. Mamoon Al-Alawi, Executive Secretary of the FAO Commission for Controlling the Desert Locust in the Central region (CRS) visited the desert locust controlling sites and witnessed the efforts of the teams working in combating the spread of the desert locust. Upon his return to the capital, Asmara, Mr. Mamoon Al-Alawi gave a press conference for local media and the VOA. He explained that Eritrea is in fact exerting great efforts to control the spread of the locust stretched in more than 32 thousand hectares. The FAO-CRS Executive Secretary expressed appreciation for the country’s contribution in the multi-national exertion against the spread of the threat-posing locust population.

As documented by ERITV’s journalist Isak Mehari , the operation teams have no time at all for any break. The environment in which they work is difficult; the high temperature and dusty areas make the job demanding and physically tiresome. To add insult to injury, the cars get stuck in the sands of the desert countess times. However, the experts and the people have made this task their own, registering impressive results.

This season, Eritrea, started survey on September 2018 while the control operation took off in December 2018. The control operation continued throughout the first few months of 2019 eliminating scattered remnants of the pest. In the last days of March 2019, Eritrea will officially conclude the campaign against the spread of the locust. No locust flew from the breeding area to the neighboring countries and even to other parts of Eritrea.