Pakistan under locust attack
Locusts are the world’s most dangerous migratory pests and they are proving it currently by destroying crops in different warm countries.
The insects can swarm in billions and in January they did so. They gathered in such a large number that forced an Ethiopian Airlines plane off the course. They are busy invading Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya, Uganda, India and Pakistan. It is the worst outbreak in at least last quarter of a century.
Other countries are also at risk now as they can multiply fast. They have already ruined hundreds and thousands hectares of crops, leaving millions of people already short of food.
The United Nations has said that the infestation could become “the most devastating plague in living memory, if action is not taken swiftly.” Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan has declared a state of emergency.
While, Pakistanis have found a simple and easy solution to infestation of locusts by substituting it with soybean husk as feed for chicken and fish. This will require no spray of chemical pesticides, which are harmful for human beings, animals and the environment.
Farmers of Okara have started selling the pest for this purpose. Locusts are 25 percent higher in protein than soybean husk. Soybean contains 45 percent protein, while locust contains 70 percent protein.
Eastern side of the country fell victim to invasion of the insects last winter, while the fresh attack is a new beginning which is expected to mount at the middle of summer. The federal government has already approved a National Action Plan against it, under which 0.3 million liter pesticide will be sprayed. After Sindh and Balochistan, grasshoppers have assailed Punjab, where they have destroyed various crops including wheat.
Environment change has helped unusual worldwide growth of the pest, which started with the cyclone that took place last year. The cyclone led to a series of rainfall which created suitable environment for their breeding. The swarm entered Pakistan through Iran and after conquering many areas here they have attacked India as well.
Farmers in Balochistan have begun harvesting premature crops in fears of a potential locust attack.
“My grape and onion crops have been completely destroyed by locusts, which led to losses of thousands of rupees for me,” a farmer said.
Farmers in several areas of Balochistan, including Quetta, Pishin, Chagai, Qila Abdullah and Mastung, were left devastated when their crops, vastly spread, were destroyed by locusts. Akhbar was also affected by the locusts. The farmers have thus began harvesting their crops ahead of time. They say it is better than losing a massive amount of work to the locusts.
Experts say that the attacks will increase with time and the government should put their heads together to protect the farmers’ livelihood.
Meanwhile, in Punjab’s Rajanpaur, the administration has begun spraying insecticides on the fields using helicopters.
According the details released by the National Locust Control Center (NLCC), joint teams of the Ministry of National Food Security, Department of Agriculture and Pakistan Army are conducting a comprehensive survey and control operation against locusts in different districts of the country.
Aerial spraying is also being done with the help of airplanes and helicopters for effective control of locust during the control operation. The teams claim to have controlled about 500,000 hectares from locusts.