Invasion of the locusts

HUNGRY: Locusts

North West face battle to stop hungry pests

The North West is battling an invasion of African migratory locusts, which are multiplying rapidly and on the verge of spiralling out of control.

For the past two months, the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Resources has been tirelessly spraying fields and grasslands in affected areas.

However, despite their best efforts, the resilient insects have spread with frightening speed, stretching the Ministry’s manpower to the limit.

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This week, the Ministry’s PRO in the North West District, Clifford Molefe admitted they were struggling to contain the pests.

Invasion of the locusts

“We have experienced an increase in incidents of African migratory locust during the middle of April. The pest that we thought we were on the verge of successfully controlling towards the end of March now came in high numbers and are now more widespread than before!” conceded Molefe.

Initially, swarms were spotted in Qurube and Tubu areas near Gumare in March. Today, while they still maintain a threatening presence in those areas, they have also spread to Xaxaba, Gunotsoga, Lake Ngami and Etsha.

“The increase could be a result mostly of swarms that were escaping from the inflow of water into the Okavango Delta areas that had dried up and there was a lot of grassland there which the locust was feeding on. This was realised upon a surveillance team of ministry officials that led them into the delta and they discovered locusts near Xaxaba settlement,” revealed the Ministry spokesperson.

As of last week, the Ministry stepped up its efforts in the battle against the locusts.

“We have pulled human resources and other resources from other districts in an effort to cope with the increased number of swarms that are not only affecting cropping fields but also rangeland that is used as grazing pastures for livestock,” declared Molefe.

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The difficulty faced by the Ministry is that pests cannot be controlled within the delta.

“The ecosystem there would not allow for it to be controlled as there are a lot of other insects that could be affected and aquatic life could also be affected, more so this is the time when water is flowing into the delta,” explained Molefe.

The locusts have already ravaged thousands of hectares of grazing land and fields in this part of the country. With the outbreak of Coronavirus that forced the country to go into lockdown since 3 April, many fields were left unattended for days. The owners returned to find their fields decimated, with only maize stalks remaining.

“It appears the locusts have a very high appetite for maize. When they get into a field with a variety of crops, they go for maize and leave other crops untouched,” revealed Deputy District Commissioner in Okavango, Thabang Waloka.

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DECIMATED: Maize stalk

At least 96 farmers in Waloka’s area have been affected by the pests, which have since destroyed 94.07 hectares of maize.

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“In total 1, 214.07 hectares have been affected by locusts in the North West of which 311.73 are fields and 902.34 grassland,” Waloka confirmed.

These marauding swarms threaten to leave many in Ngamiland and Okavango areas facing a dire food security situation.

Already, the people’s resources have been hit hard by last year’s outbreak of the contagious cattle disease, ambylomma variegatum, also known as tropical bont tick (kgofa), which killed thousands of their cattle.

It is a point not lost on Ngami Member of Parliament (MP), Carter Hikuama.

“Many farmers lost their cattle last year during the bont tick outbreak and decided to venture into crop production this year. It is disheartening to see how helpless these farmers are now. For them, it is crisis after disaster,” a concerned Hikuama told Okavango Voice in an exclusive interview this week.

Invasion of the locusts
WORRIED: Hikuama

With no end in sight for this chain of natural disasters, Hikuama is adamant Government must help

“Government should think about them, they lost cattle, they are losing their crops and this is an area where many people live in abject poverty, but who try hard to graduate from this condition through farming.”

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According to experts, a single swarm of locusts can consume more than 200, 000 tons of vegetation and multiply ten folds in three to six months. However, locusts are said to have a short life span, and do not survive in wetland but rather where there is a lot of grass.

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