The for the past couple of weeks I have been reading news reports on swams of locust moving across north and west Africa – Mauritania, northern Senegal, Mali, Niger and most recently Chad. They will quite likely reach the Darfur region of Sudan next.
Some very scarry facts about this particular Locust
* The desert locust is the single most destructive insect. It is native to Africa, the Middle East and western Asia. A locust measures only 4.5-6cm long and weighs 2 grams but manages to eat its own weight in food every day.
* If an area is unable to support localised populations of locusts they will gather into a single mass, or swarm. This is often precipitated by favourable breeding conditions, which lead to over-crowding and scarcity of food.
* Locust swarms vary from less than one square kilometre to several hundred square kilometres. In each square kilometre there can be between 40-80 million locusts. Swarms can travel 130 kilometres or more per day.
* A fraction of a swarm can eat the same amount in a day as 10 elephants, 25 camels or about 2,500 people, experts say, destroying subsistence crops such as sorghum and millet as well as money earners like water melons and groundnuts.
* Large locust swarms, or plagues, develop intermittently. In the last century, plagues occurred in 1926-34, 1940-48, 1949-63, 1967-69 and 1986-89.
Reports are saying that nearly a million people in West Africa face famine unless they get aid to fight the swams of locusts which are eating crops.
The world food programme warned about the possibilty of a plague of locusts in W. AFrica as early as October last year but as usual no one took any notice.