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MOA: Efforts to combat locust swarm infestation

In the past months, Desert Locust has been rapidly spreading through the Horn of Africa in “super-swarms” posing a serious threat to the region’s harvests and resilient programmes of food security. Clouds of locust flew from Yemen last year, and are now hovering over Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia and other favorable areas for locust to breed and infest.

As part and parcel of its robust programmes of food security and in view of perennial threats of locust infestation, the Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) has, since long, developed sturdy mechanisms of prevention and control of the scourge.  The MOA has, since long, put in place ground operation systems of early warning for periodic monitoring of the locust breeding seasons. The Ministry mobilizes manpower and several strategic outlays on a constant basis to survey and control breeding areas before the spread of a possible outbreak.

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 to prevent potential damage. The Ministry has also a contingency plan for broader operations.

Internally, MOA’s persistent work regarding pest control, is scheduled throughout the whole year, during every season in every breeding area of the country. The Ministry’s mandate includes giving primary focus to prevention of local upsurges as Eritrea’s geographical composition is conducive for pest breeding. The Ministry accordingly undertakes proactive measures to deter locust breeding at the initial stages and thereby eliminate resultant incursion of swarms to the hinterland as well as neighboring countries. “No locust swarms have ever spread from the breeding areas to other parts of Eritrea; nor to neighboring countries”, Mr. Huruy Asghedom, Director General of MOA’s Department of Agricultural Extension, explains.

Eritrea’s sea shores are recession areas for some pests. In the event, MOA controls and prevents the outbreak or spread of pests through its Migratory Pest Control Units arrayed all over these areas. The central mission of these Units is to prevent destruction of the harvest throughout all four seasons despite the natural odds.  The units conduct regular surveys to gauge potential threats and to put in place viable remedial measures.   MOA’s Migratory Pests Control Units, along with scouts – i.e. farmers who live in the breeding areas –  and regional experts, run consistent inspections every summer and winter equipped with GPS navigation systems to track infestations. The findings are reported regularly to HQ.

In addition, Eritrea coordinates its efforts and works closely with relevant regional organizations, including CRC, DLCO-EA, SWAC, and CLCPRO. “The Desert Locust situation in the Eastern Africa region remains a serious concern for FAO and national governments” reads an FAO December 2019 report. It goes on to state that “In Eritrea, big swarms of immature adults that migrated from Ethiopia, were identified and controlled around Shieb, Gahtielay, Wengebo and Beareze of the Northern Red Sea Coast. Moreover, the swarms of Tree Locust have been detected in Tserona, Mai-seraw, Quatit and Digsa districts of Southern Eritrea.”

“Swarms appeared in the Southern Region from 13th – 16th November, 2019 in the Subzones of Tsorona, Segeneyti, Mai-Ayni and in a very limited size in other Sub-zones. Other new swarms and some swarms that flew from the Southern Region also arrived in the Northern Res Sea Region from 19th – 22nd November, 2019 in the Sub zones of Gindae, Massawa and Foro.

In both these regions, the general public and the military were mobilized under the coordination of the Ministry of Agriculture and the Regional Administration Offices to combat the huge locust swarms. The MOA Report issued at the time reads: “as a result of the extra-ordinary commitment, Eritrea saved its crops and range lands with almost no or insignificant damage.”

The Migratory Pests Control Unit of the Ministry of Agriculture recently announced that desert locust control operation is still underway in the Northern Red Sea Region of the country. So far more than 32,000 hectares of land infested with desert locust have been treated effectively.   The control operations are being conducted from five base stations namely; Marsa-Gulbub, Sheeb, Wekiro, Girat (Emahmime) and Foro.

Meanwhile, crop harvesting is underway in Sheeb, Afabet and Wekiro. Crops in Emberemi and Foro are at their maturity stage while those in Karora and Emahmime are still from knee-height to flowering stages.

FAO forecast notes that “given the current favorable ecological conditions, another generation of the Desert Locust will likely affect the region later in 2020”.  In this connection, DLCO report stresses the need for “urgent and decisive action from all partners”.

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