Heavy rains and twisters started “extraordinary” breeding
Farmers Struggling to Combat the Worst Locust Plague
Pakistan’s farmers are struggling to combat the worst locust plague in nearly three decades. Insect swarms decimate entire harvests within the country’s agricultural heartlands and send food prices soaring. Heavy rains and cyclones sparked “unprecedented” breeding and therefore the explosive growth of locust populations on the Arabian Peninsula early last year, consistent with the United Nations.
The insects have since fanned out and wreaked havoc on farms from East Africa to India,before making their way into Pakistan from the desert on the country’s southwestern border with Iran. The crisis is so severe that the govt has declared a nationwide emergency and urgently appealed for help from the international community. Officials in southern Sindh province fear the infestation will devastate the availability of cotton, the local crop, before its harvest within the coming months.
Local surveys of the damage are continuing, but the Sindh Chamber of Agriculture says nearly half all crops are destroyed near the port city of Karachi.
“I haven’t seen an infestation like this one in my career,” said Shahbaz Akhtar, an agricultural official charged with locust eradication efforts within the village of Pipli Pahar in central Punjab province.
Local authorities had “launched a combat operation” to clear the world of infestation with pesticide sprays, he said. Clouds of the noxious gas envelop the nearby fields each morning, where villagers gather the husks of dead insects for a politician bounty of 20 rupees (13 cents) per kilogram me bag. “We spray twice each day here,” says Fayyaz Azeem, clad during a mask and thick industrial gloves on top of a tractor discharging pesticide into rows of crops.
Locusts are Killed Off
But the method is slow and time-consuming, and by the time locusts are killed off in one field they need often already destroyed subsequent. The pesticides employed by officials also are dangerous for consumption, so even when the locusts are dead the remaining crops need to be discarded. Some farmers are forced to choose more desperate solutions while expecting their fields to be sprayed and have attempted to daunt the swarms by shouting and banging pots.
Chinese Experts has Arrived in Pakistan
A team of Chinese experts has arrived in Pakistan to survey the crisis, food security ministry chief Muhammad Hashim Popalzai told AFP. Beijing could also offer aerial spraying – a way faster and more efficient method of pest control – and Pakistan can also import pesticides from China. Earlier reports circulating online suggested China was getting to send thousands of ducks to Pakistan to devour the scourge. Pakistani officials said no such plans were being considered. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization has also found out meetings between India and Pakistan to stop the swarms from spreading, Popalzai said.
Years without a locust attack meant the govt “had become complacent” about the risks of a replacement infestation, said Pakistan Farmers Bureau president Zafar Hayyat.
Agriculture accounts for 20 percent of Pakistan’s GDP but the world has already struggled for years within the face of drought and dwindling water supplies. The country is additionally experiencing 12-year inflation highs, with the value of sugar nearly doubling and flour prices jumping 15 percent within the past year.
Locust Breeding Season
Though he applauded the steps being taken to fight the plague, Hayyat warned of the danger that swarms would return mid-year after subsequent locust breeding season.
Locusts Destroyed Crops
For many farmers in Pipli Pahar, the extermination campaign has already come too late. Sitting within the corner of a wheat field together with her cow, Rafiya Bibi watches the flurry of pesticide spraying round her.
The locusts have already destroyed her crops of canola, sunflower, chili and tobacco, which she had bought after borrowing 45,000 rupees from the govt. With no harvest, she has no thanks to repay the loan. “What am I able to do?” she said. “All I can do is cry, what else am I able to do?”
Pakistan’s Farmers Struggling
Pakistan’s farmers are struggling to combat the worst locust plague in nearly three decades.