FAO has not delayed its aid to Yemen [Archives:2007/1068/Front Page]

July 16 2007

Amel Al-Ariqi
SANA'A, July 15 ) The Director-General of Yemen's Desert Locust Control Centre yesterday denied local and international media reports that the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has delayed its locust eradication operations in Yemen.

“FAO did not delay its aid to Yemen,” Abdu Fara Al-Romaih confirmed, adding, “My statement was so clear to the media. I said that the FAO operation's airplane, which was supposed to arrive at the middle of this month, had not arrived yet, so we had to start combating the locusts using our existing capabilities. I did not say that the FAO stopped its aid to Yemen. In fact Yemen benefits in this dangerous situation from extraordinary fast and efficient support from FAO, in terms of material and technical advice,” Abdu Farea confirmed.

Al-Romaih criticized the media, which circulated that the latest bombing in the governorate of Marib was the main reason for the stop of FAO operations to fight locusts. He confirmed that Yemen still has cooperation with the FAO, stating, “We are expecting the arrival of one spray airplane by the end of this month latest.”

The FAO warned a month ago that Yemen faces its worst outbreak of crop-devouring locusts in nearly 15 years. On July 4, the FAO released a statement that desert locusts had infested large areas in the remote interior of Yemen along the southern edge of the Empty Quarter, stretching from Marib to the border with Oman.

Yemen Times reported on the 15th July: “Locust numbers are likely to increase dramatically as a second generation of breeding continues in these areas. Agricultural crops in Wadi Hadhramaut and other areas, including the Sana'a highlands could be at risk.”

In response to the locust threat, Yemen submitted a request to the FAO in early June to provide the country with aircrafts in order to eliminate widespread locust infestation, which struck farms in eastern provinces, causing rousing fears of a locust swarm invasion in neighboring countries.

“There are now 13 survey and control teams in the field, including more than 100 men, equipped with all technical material, spray equipment, and 35 vehicles in the areas in which the locusts are most prevalent. Those teams, who have been distributed in Shabwa, Hadramout, and Marib, were able to eliminate the infestation in the area estimated at 6000 hectares so far,” Al-Romaih clarified.

However, a new and exceptionally rare invasion of locusts is expected during the next weeks from the desert of the Empty Quarter, which stretches from Saudi Arabia. Yemeni Deputy Agriculture Minister Abdel Malik al-Arashi reported that the Yemeni government has since asked for regional and international help to face “a danger which threatens large agricultural territories in the region of the Arabian Peninsula.”

Since the very first alert in January, the government of Yemen has dedicated more than 50 million Yemeni Riyals (approx. 250,000 USD) to fight desert locusts. The United Nations Emergency Reserve Fund has allocated 2.4 million USD towards fighting the spread of locusts.

Yemen experienced locust infestations in 1986, 1987, and 1993, the latter being a particularly serious outbreak. However, outbreaks in 2002 and 2004 were successfully controlled. It is worth noting that, according to the FAO, a very small section of an average locust swarm eats the same amount of food in one day as about 2,500 people.