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FAO Warns Desert Locusts Threaten South and West Asia, Horn of Africa, Need High Technology

Feb. 5, 2020 (EIRNS)—In a statement issued Feb. 3, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warned that the swarms of Desert Locust infesting the Pakistan-India border region have spread to several East African countries, from where they will likely further spread. On Feb. 1, reported Deutsche Welle, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan declared a national emergency. The locusts arrived in Pakistan from Iran in June, DW reported. National Food Security Minister Makhdoom Khusro Bak­h­tiar said the locust swarms were currently on the Pakistan-India border around Cholistan and were previously in Sindh and Balochistan, according to Pakistan daily The Dawn. Associated Press conveyed Feb. 3 that these Desert Locust swarms number in the “billions”—not millions.

The FAO report on Feb. identified three main areas—the Pakistan/India border area, from which swarms are moving into Oman and Yemen, and up the Yemeni and Saudi east side of the Red Sea. And then, the FAO identifies the Hornof Africa as “the worst affected area.” There is

“an unprecedented threat to food security and livelihoods as swarms increase in Ethiopia and Somalia and continue to move south to Kenya ... reaching within 200 km of northeast Uganda and southeast South Sudan.... Swarms have also entered the Rift Valley in Ethiopia. Aerial and ground operations are in progress but remain insufficient. Breeding during February will cause a further increase with numerous hopper bands in all three countries. Some swarms may still reach Uganda and South Sudan in the coming days.”

Finally, FAO reports “In southwest Asia, heavy rains on the southern coast of Iran where swarms were laying eggs, … should allow favorable conditions for two generations of breeding that could cause a considerable increase in locust numbers.”

A map distinguishing the spread of swarms, bands, groups, adults, and hoppers, and from where the outbreaks are spreading, accompanies the update.

In an earlier Jan. 30 statement, FAO Director-General Qu Dongyu warned that the Desert Locust upsurge in the Horn of Africa threatened to provoke a humanitarian crisis, and called for urgent funding to tackle the outbreak and protect livelihoods and food security. FAO has been able to mobilize $15.4 million out of $76 million requested for the five most severely-affected countries—Ethiopia, Somalia, Djibouti, Kenya and Eritrea. But this level of aid cannot address the problem, particularly if the outbreak spreads to other countries, such as South Sudan, Yemen and Uganda, as expected.

What must be on the agenda is the application of advanced technologies such as drones, whose effectiveness has already been proven on a smaller scale in Pakistan, Mauritania and other African nations, along with overall strengthening of infrastructure. Drone technology is already being applied as part of the FAO’s “global Desert Locust monitoring, early warning and preventive control in Africa and Asia” program, in which locust survey teams equipped with drones seek out areas of green vegetation in the desert, search the areas for smaller locust infestations and treat them safely and effectively—before they develop into large swarms.

In the late 1980s, Lyndon LaRouche spearheaded a campaign through EIR and the Fusion Energy Foundation urging the use of electromagnetic pulsed waves to destroy locust swarms. (See EIR, Vol. 16, April 15, 1988.) The use of high-power microwave systems offers another fruitful avenue for research. As LaRouche said then, and is still true today, absent a technological intervention of this kind, millions in these regions are condemned to death.

FAO’s Qu Dongyu emphasized that food security in the affected region is already very fragile. Locusts threaten to destroy pastures and crops; even one small swarm covering 1 sq. km can consume enough food to nourish 35,000 people in one day. In Kenya, 70,000 hectares of land are already infested. “We need to act immediately because the locusts don’t wait, they will come and they will destroy,” said Maria Helena Semedo, FAO Deputy Director-General for Climate and Natural Resources.

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