Getting ready for L-day
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CTA. 1998. Getting ready for L-day. Spore 76. CTA, Wageningen, The Netherlands.
Permanent link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/10568/48141
Internet URL: http://spore.cta.int/images/stories/pdf/old/spore76.pdf
By the time the government of Madagascar put out an appeal for international assistance in July 1997, the most recent invasion of locusts had already wreaked havoc. In the southern half of the country, in the Central Highlands and part of the...
By the time the government of Madagascar put out an appeal for international assistance in July 1997, the most recent invasion of locusts had already wreaked havoc. In the southern half of the country, in the Central Highlands and part of the Eastern and Western Regions, entire crops had been devastated. It was a catastrophe waiting to happen. A 1993 report of an evaluation mission on the impact and prevention of locust plagues, financed by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), had left no doubt about the urgency of the situation and the shortcomings of anti-locust measures at the national level. However, at the time, the succession of governments had other priorities. With too little action being taken too late, and despite an emergency credit obtained in September 1997 mainly from the World Bank, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization and the European Union, the plague has not been tamed. The list of shortcomings is long, it includes: the institutional mist around the establishment of the national committee for the anti-locust campaign, run by the armed forces; a centralised management structure; policy divergence among funding agencies; irregular supplies of pesticides; and crop-duster airplane breakdowns. The litany of complaints must be music to the ears of the well-fed locusts and grasshoppers. Lessons of past mistakes have been forgotten, but not the memories. In 1958, it is recalled, more than ten specialists and 1,000 technical staff were mobilised in the anti-locust campaign. Today, there is one lone specialist and an ageing staff, tossed from pillar to post by a multitude of instructions and consultants; they struggle valiantly against the locusts, which have now reached the international airport of Ivato. In the marketplace, food prices have risen; food shortages are accompanied by a growing black market. The need for funding is growing in line with the phenomenon: the initial estimate of US$ 12 million made in December 1997 has now reached US$ 20 million. The European Union has already provided ECU 5 million from the community budget for 'aid and food security'. In an analysis of the Food Risk Early Warning System carried out in April 1998, eleven communes were classified as suffering food stress, with an estimated 105,234 people affected. Recent infestations in the south-east region of the country give rise to more concern. Some harvests were gathered early and saved, but others were annihilated or severely damaged: sugar cane 100%, maize 35% and rice 75% (1998 production is estimated at 39,000 tonnes). Nurtured on the grass seeds of cattle pastures, the locusts are now threatening the coffee crop. In the south-east, people struggled for two weeks to beat off the invasion, armed only with the ability to make loud noise and to light bush fires to scare off the locusts. Having been saved, surprisingly, by El Niño from the ravages of a cyclone, the region was hit by the disaster that was greedy insects. Some call for the fast and absolute elimination of the plague, whilst others insist on environmental protection; all are united in procrastinating about the right solution. Maybe the fable of La Fontaine could be an inspiration here, where the wise ant, the guardian of plenty, tells the hungry grasshopper, having sung all summer long, to 'go away and dance for your winter food!' The issue now is to avert the threat of food insecurity which hangs over Madagascar. This must be a more successful operation than that intended to prevent the locust plague.