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Locust activity in the Sahel may increase household food insecurity

  • Alert
  • West Africa
  • June 26, 2012
Locust activity in the Sahel may increase household food insecurity

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  • Summary
  • Situation

  • Summary

    Potential locust proliferation, resulting in damage to crops and pasture, could have significant impacts on household food security in the Sahel. Areas currently facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) due to a poor 2011/12 agricultural season and high food prices are of particular concern. Rainfall over the coming weeks and the effectiveness of emergency control efforts will influence locust population growth and travel patterns. Local and international partners should act quickly to support detection and control efforts.


    Since February, desert locust outbreaks have been observed in border areas of Libya and Algeria. In these areas, early treatment and detection efforts decreased the number of locusts that are now migrating south towards the Sahel. However, May/June rainfall in parts of northern Mali, Niger, and Chad has been aboveaverage, creating favorable conditions for breeding. Immature swarm movement was first observed in late May and has rapidly expanded. Since the beginning of June, over 17 groups of immature adults and small swarms from the north arrived in areas between Arlit and Dirkou in northern Niger, including the Air Mountains and the Ténéré Desert, where damage to date palms and cultivations have been reported (FAO). Additionally, some adults have continued to move south and have reportedly reached pasture areas in northern cropping zones near Tanout. As of mid-June, treatment and detection teams in Niger observed locust activity in 1,590 of the 6,000 hectares they explored, and have treated 740 hectares to-date (GoN). In Mali, numerous immature and mature swarms and adult groups were observed in Timetrine, and along western Adrar des Iforas. While early planning efforts are also underway in Mali, insecurity in both northern Niger and northern Mali is likely to hinder control operations.

    Breeding is expected to begin this month in Niger and Mali, resulting in increased locust populations and band formation. Seasonal breeding is likely to start in Chad and Mauritania in the coming weeks. If favorable breeding conditions persist and control operations remain insufficient, locust invasions could result in significant localized crop and pasture losses. Adult groups and a few small swarms could reach crop production areas of central Niger during June/July, a key period for sowing and crop establishment. Agropastoral areas of Mali and Niger are of particular concern as households rely on unimodal crop production for up to nine months of annual food/ income needs. Several areas facing the highest likelihood of swarms are also currently facing Crisis-level (IPC Phase 3) food insecurity resulting from mediocre 2011 harvests, high food prices, and assistance shortfalls. Locust damage in the coming months could impact July-September food security by reducing wild food availability, and driving price increases as crop production prospects diminish. However, the most severe impacts would likely be felt during 2013, when households affected by crop losses would face a more severe lean season. 

    In the coming weeks, rainfall, which is forecast to continue in northern Mali and northern Niger, and the effectiveness of control efforts will influence locust population growth and travel patterns. Continued reconnaissance to locate breeding areas and effective treatment and control operations are critical to averting further proliferation of locusts and minimizing damage to grazing areas and agricultural production, both of which are essential to restoring already acute levels of food insecurity throughout the Sahel. International partners should therefore act quickly to support local and regional detection and control efforts.

    Figures Figure 1. Observed Locust Activity in the Sahel (May 23-Jun 27)

    Figure 1

    Figure 1


    FEWS NET will publish an Alert to highlight a current or anticipated shock expected to drive a sharp deterioration in food security, such that a humanitarian food assistance response is imminently needed.

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