May. 7, 2020
As the world battles the Covid-19 pandemic, another threat swarms over Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia, Iran, Pakistan and India — a second wave of desert locusts. It could seriously maim agricultural production and food insecurity in the affected countries.
Together with the Covid-19 pandemic, the locust outbreak has the potential to present untold economic and human hardship. India is one of the few countries in the world with the capacity, in terms of producing the relevant pesticides and the skill to apply those chemicals in the disciplined manner needed to kill the locust hordes. India must deploy that capability, starting with east Africa.
The locust outbreaks affected India as well: 88% of the 168,548 hectares of affected farmland in Rajasthan and Gujarat witnessed a severe crop loss of more than 33%. However, the impact was contained due to effective use of pesticides and prompt action led by the Crop Care Federation of India. The effective spraying of pesticides is the only effective method of dealing with locust swarms.
This second wave is projected to be 20 times stronger than the first one in January-February — the United Nations estimates that size of the second wave would be around 1.9 trillion locusts. Given its success and expertise, India should, working with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation, step up and tackle this menace. A collapse of agricultural production in this stretch from east Africa to India will not only present an economic and social crisis, but result in a security challenge as well. The locust swarms and its destruction of crops could well provide terror groups the boost and space to regroup. However, the window for action is small. With the sowing and planting season nigh, and rainfall expected to be heavy, the time to act is now.