Zimbabwe: Govt On High Alert Against Locust Outbreak

Zimbabwe should continue to take anticipatory measures and preparatory steps to fight swarms of locusts in case fresh outbreaks in the coming 20/21 cropping season, a senior plant crop disease expert has said.

Shingirai Nyamutukwa, head of the Plant Quarantine & Plant Protection Research Services Institute of the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Water and Rural Resettlement told The Herald yesterday that even though no swarms had been seen in recent days following a locust outbreak in the Gonarezhou National Park last month, the country should continue to carry out pest surveillance.

He said the risk of significant impact to both crops and rangelands could be very high in case of good rains which offer favourable breeding conditions for swarms to thrive in the coming season.

“No locusts swarm have been seen from the update I got today (Wednesday),” he said.

“We are currently engaging all stakeholders so that we pull resources together so that we are better prepared for any future outbreaks. So far the Food and Agriculture Organisation, Zimbabwe Resilience Building Fund though Enhancing Community Resilience and Sustainability (ECRAS) and other partners like Plan International, Care as well as the World Bank are on board to assist in this matter besides treasury.

“Work is in progress to help us prepare for any new outbreaks. As we speak, resources are being pulled together for our locust plague preparedness action plans.”

Nyamutukwa expressed satisfaction at the level of response and support they were getting from Government and international partners in terms of resource mobilisation.

“It’s encouraging to note the urgency with which our appeals are being supported,” he said.

“We have submitted budgets and so far we are still waiting for commitments.”

Countries in East Africa have for months been battling the worst locust outbreak in living memory, with large swarms of locusts nibbling away the leaves of both crops and the brush that sustains the livestock and wildlife.

The plague of locusts spreading across this region is threatening food supply systems and livelihoods for millions of people.

Zimbabwe too faces some risks particularly in the coming farming season.

Swarms of the African migratory locusts were spotted in the Gonarezhou National Park last month forcing the Government to dispatch plant disease control teams to multiple locations that included Gonarezhou National Park which shares its border with Mozambique, Save Conservancy and various parts in Chiredzi.

Fears abound that swarms of the dreaded pests if they breed during the rainy season could have a potential of wreaking havoc in the coming 2020-2021 cropping season.

Locusts change colour and form groups that can develop into huge flying swarms of ravenous marauding pests.

Plant disease experts say such swarms of locusts can be huge and they say they can contain up to 10 billion individuals and stretch over hundreds of kilometres.

They can cover up to 200km in a day, devastating rural livelihoods in their voracious drive to eat and reproduce.

An average swarm can destroy crops sufficient to feed 2 500 people for a year, according to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

The World Bank earlier this year announced a US$500 million program for countries affected by the desert locust swarms, while the FAO has sought more than US$300 million.

In recent months, food security concerns have emerged for nations across Africa, Asia and the Middle East, as swarms of desert locusts wreak havoc on crops.

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