DLCC vehicles still hijacked in MaribExperts warn of possible locusts outbreak [Archives:2005/866/Front Page]

August 8 2005

Mohammed Al-Qadhi
Yemen agricultural experts are afraid that locusts breakout in some African countries will affect their country wherein some breakout has been seen in some of the southern and Northern areas.

“Scattered adults are present in the summer breeding areas in the interior of Yemen and in Rajasthan, India but no significant developments are likely in either country,” said a press statement issued by the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) 21 July.

“We are very warned about the situation in Yemen as swarms of locusts have been found in some of the African countries, mainly Sudan and Eritrea which are very close to the coats of Yemen. Limited number of locusts has been found also in the governorates of Shabwa (474 km to the south of Sana'a) and Marib (173 km to the northeast of Sana'a). Teams have been sent to the field to monitor the situation,” Fuad Bahakeem, FAO National Professional Officer for Emergency Prevention System for Transboundary Animal and Plant, Pests Diseases (EMPRES) central region said.

“As the situation in Eritrea is still unclear as we have received information that swarms of locusts have been located. Although the situation in Yemen is still not threatening and worrying but the danger lies in the potential swarms that might invade the country from the African Horn countries as well as the potential rainfall in some areas. We have to monitor and be on alert,” he added.

Abdu Far'e al-Rumaih, general director of the Desert Locusts Control Center (DLCC) said that the central region countries have discussed in their meeting Sudan during the period 23-29 July the situation of desert locusts. “We have found out that Darfor constitutes an imminent threat to the neighbouring countries as swarms of locusts have raided Chad, South Sudan and Ethiopia and Eritrea.

This is sending alarms that we should get ready for any possible invasion,” said Abdu Far'e al-Rumaih, general director of the Desert Locusts Control Center (DLCC).

He said that field reports have shown that the situation in the Arabian Peninsula and the Gulf countries is still under control expect in some parts of Yemen. “We have received field reports from the governorate of Shabwa (474 km to the south of Sana'a) that the numbers of locusts have begun to increase as locusts sellers have begun selling them in the marketplace. We expect the situation to be similar in Marib province (173 km to the northeast of Sana'a). There is an outbreak also in some areas of Hadramut. These governorates are summer breeding areas for locusts,” he added. However, he said that the situation in Yemen despite such information is still stable and that they are getting ready for a field survey in the potential areas to be hit by the locusts.

In case of possible breakout of locusts in Marib, the situation will be worse as the DLCC refuses to enter the area as their equipment and some of their agricultural experts have been looted by some big tribal figures demanding the government to release some of their detainees. “We can not go to Marib any more as two of our vehicles were snatched by the tribesmen July 2, 2005. The two vehicles have very precious devices which we could not get back and therefore, I will not put my other stuff in danger again,” he explained.

“We can not assess how dangerous and alarming is the situation in Yemen only on the basis we get from Eritrea as we are sending an expert over there Friday, July 5. We are also expecting some invasion of locusts to Tihama valley through the Red sea. However, I can frankly say that we are not as ready as we were last year as some of the devices and vehicles have been kidnapped by some tribesmen in Marib.”

They include survey and field equipment, communications means, and two vehicles, which cost more than $200,000. The tribal military person who kidnapped them is now asking for the release of some people jailed on charges of terrorism and al-Qaeda. The DLCC has addressed the presidential office, the ministry of interior and the political security office to take an action and get back the hijacked vehicles but no way.

The DLCC has 37 sprayers and enough pesticides, according to Far'e, but it is lacking sufficient vehicles for there are only 12 vehicles while, in their contingency plan, there is a need for 50. They have enough pesticides 37 sprayers but without vehicles. They have good communication system, as there are 45 sources of information in various areas of the country.

Yemen has been, according to Far'e, awarded by the FAO due to its good steps in the fight against locusts as the staffs of the DLCC has succeeded in using the most advanced technology in remote sensing to control locusts breakouts in 2002 and 2004. It has been even chosen as a regional office for the Desert Locust Control Committee in central region.

The worst invasion Yemen has was in the years 1986, 1987 and 1993.The invasion of 1993 hit many areas in Yemen and caused a lot of damage and loss in the meadows and plants.

In Yemen, there are two types of locusts, according to the FAO expert, Fuad Bahakeem. They are desert locust and African migratory; the latter is common in the coastal areas.

The insects, which weigh about two grams, can eat their own weight of vegetation in a day. When breeding conditions are right, they form dense and highly destructive swarms occupying several square kilometers that can strip an area of greenery within hours.