Northern Cape ready and waiting for what could be 'record number' of locusts
The Northern Cape is expecting huge swarms of brown locusts during the rainy season this year, but farmers have been ready for the pests since last year and are not expecting a disaster.
Agri Northern Cape Risk Management's Janine Möller said two weeks ago the first swarm was noticed by the district locust officer in the Concordia, Springbok, area in Namaqualand. It was subsequently managed.
“We had a preparation meeting with Agri Northern Cape and the National African Farmers Union (Nafu) to do some planning for the next season.
“Before last year we had no swarms for 10 years. We did training last year and again this weekend with [teams from] the Northern Cape and the Eastern Cape [which are likely to experience the same thing].
“In the Northern Cape we don't have a fixed date [for the start of the season] but we have collected all our equipment and Treasury has also given us new equipment - we are planned and prepared.”
Möller said they could predict the swarms because of rain forecasts - especially in the eastern part of the province.
“Locusts nest underground with their eggs in a cocoon-type of structure. They can remain there for years until the right amount of rain comes and washes away the cocoon, then they break out. They need about 30ml of rain to hatch.”
But Möller said there was an opportunity for farmers to make money and employ general workers by eradicating the swarms.
“Especially farmers who are in drought areas [and are unable to farm] they can use this as a way to earn income and create employment.”
To eradicate the pests, workers enter the fields at night when the insect does not fly, and spray a pesticide.
Last year a swarm in Middelburg in the Eastern Cape took just 30 minutes to consume 6ha of lucerne
“We must give credit to the proactive working community and to the Department of Agricultural, Rural Development and Land Reform for organising themselves so early.”
According to Sunday Times, some of the locust swarms in the Northern Cape and Eastern Cape last year were up to 20km wide.
With swarms able to travel up to 100km a day they can get out of hand if not managed early.
Last year a swarm in Middelburg in the Eastern Cape took just 30 minutes to consume 6ha of lucerne.
In many parts of the Northern and Eastern Cape which are still experiencing drought, lucerne is the only way farmers can feed their cattle.
In January the UN was urgently seeking millions in aid to continue its work in eradicating desert swarms in Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and Sudan.
Dominique Burgeon, the UN's Food and Agricultural Organisation director of emergencies and resilience, said the locust swarms in 2020 in these areas were as wide as 60kms and had not been seen in decades, “threatening food security in a region where many were already going hungry”.
He said UN aid had managed to save 3-million tonnes of cereal which was enough to feed 21-million people for a year, but needed $38m (R557m) more to keep 28 aircraft that patrol the skies in the air.