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Locust Swarms in North Africa Ease, but Mauritania Faces a Food Shortage

I’m Bob Doughty with the VOA Special English Agriculture Report.

The Food and Agriculture Organization says the locust situation in Northwest Africa is improving. The United Nations agency reported last week that Morocco had reduced its control operations by about fifty percent. Algeria, also invaded by desert locusts, reduced its treatments by twenty percent.

The F.A.O. said locust control operations ended in Mauritania. But now that country faces a food shortage. The U.N. World Food Program says locusts invaded one hundred percent of the agricultural production area of Mauritania.

The insects have destroyed not only cereal grains but also vegetables. Not enough rain last year has made the situation worse. Grasslands for cattle have also been damaged.

The World Food Program appealed last week for thirty-one million dollars to provide food aid for Mauritania. Agency officials say four hundred thousand people are in urgent need of assistance through two thousand seven. Mauritania has a population of almost three million.

The country is estimated to need one hundred eighty-seven thousand metric tons of food to feed its population.

The worst damage is in southern Mauritania, home to one-fourth of the population. A U.N. study says sixty percent of families there will not have enough to eat in the coming year.

The locust invasions in the Sahel area of West Africa have been described as the worst in fifteen years. Aircraft have spread poisons over millions of hectares of land to kill the insects.

The Food and Agriculture Organization said last week that limited control operations continued in parts of Gambia and southern Senegal. Guinea Bissau and northwest Guinea were organizing operations to treat small groups of locusts too young to reproduce.

Locust migrations begin when young locusts leave their native territory to search for new places to mate and lay eggs.

One locust weighs only about two grams. But swarms can involve thousands of millions. One ton of locusts can eat about as much food as two thousand five hundred people. Experts say locust migrations last for several years.

The current invasions began last June. By last week, the F.A.O. had received sixty-four million dollars to assist the countries affected. At least nine million dollars more is expected.

This VOA Special English Agriculture Report was written by Mario Ritter. I'm Bob Doughty.