Locusts cause food crisis in Madagascar

Up to a quarter of Madagascar’s food crops have been destroyed by a locust plague raging since last year.

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Madagascar’s agriculture ministry declared a national disaster in November 2012, but has not been able to raise the funds for pesticides to curb the plague, named the worst since the 1950s. “We don’t have the funds for pesticide, helicopters and training,” said Alexandre Huynh, Food and Agriculture Organisation’s (FAO) representative in Madagascar.

“It is extremely costly to run the helicopters needed to spray pesticides. We need US$22,4 million (R224 million). Discussions are ongoing with donors,” Huynh said. Locusts have infested more than half of the island’s cultivated land and pastures, and caused the loss of 630 000t of rice, about 25% of the island’s food consumption needs.

About 1,5 million hectares could be infested by locusts, in two-thirds of the country, by September. A damage assessment report indicated that rice and maize crop losses due to locusts in the mid- and south-western parts of Madagascar varied from 40% to 70%, reaching up to 100% in some areas.

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FAO said that the food security and livelihoods of 13 million people, 60% of the island’s population, were at stake. About nine million people depended directly on agriculture for their livelihoods.