Red Sea locust risk increasing, warns UN Agency [Archives:2007/1093/Front Page]

October 11 2007

Fatima Al-Ajel
SANA'A, Oct. 9 ) There is a high risk that locust infestations will increase dramatically on both sides of the Red Sea in the coming months because of good rainfall since August.

The warning comes from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization which registers that young “hopper” locusts have formed several small bands on the northern coast of Yemen near Suq Abs. On the central coast, hopper groups were forming south of Hodeidah. Adults continue to lay eggs in many areas but so far no swarms have reached the coast from the interior of Yemen. Two months ago FAO termed the infestation in Yemen as “threatening and extremely serious” and in September it warned that it had worsened.

FAO experts expect that locusts will extend to other areas along the coast and into southwest Saudi Arabia near Jizan during this month. “We expect that swarm of locusts will extend to the winter coastline areas; at the Red Sea and Aden Gulf.”

However, locust infestations continue to decline in outbreak areas in the interior of Yemen as vegetation dries out, but a few more swarms could still form from residual populations in October. They move into the central highlands and to the southern coast near Aden, with a moderate risk that some could cross the Gulf of Aden to northern Somalia.

There is good news for the northern governorates where the situation has improved in the last week. In general, all the northern governorates of Yemen have been announced clear of locusts. The winter season is the suitable time for the locusts' breeding. “The fast- response teams are ready to observe the situation in these areas and avoid the expected danger”, Al-Romaih confirmed.

The cooperation of some directors of some local councils and residents in the Lahj, Hodeidah and Hajah contributed in controlling the locusts' movements in these areas. “We use a special insecticide” biotic pesticide” which don't affect the bee farms. ” Al-Romaih comforted the owners of the bee farms.

There are about ten anti- locust teams which have already controlled the speedily spreading of the young “hopper” locusts in Hajah governorate in Abs district so the situation is better during the last week. However, the danger is still expected because of some hoppers groups which appeared because of the breeding of the adults' locusts especially in Harath district in Hajah governorate.

Yemen's Desert Locust Control Centre has made a visit to Hajah and Hodeidah states to evaluate the areas where the locusts spread . ” In Bait al-Faqi district in Hodeidah, about 1000 hectares were covered by the locusts and fortunately these areas are sandy lands.

There is an expected danger if the spreading of the locusts might cover most the winter areas ' from Hajah to the Red Sea and Aden Gulf. ” the anti- locust teams might not be able to cover all the areas so we call for more supports for the Yemen's Desert Locust Control Centre in order to control the locusts' movements inside Yemen and avoid them to spread abroad.” Al-Romaih mentioned.

Al-Romaih ensured that Yemen plays a role in decreasing the locusts spreading to the neighboring countries if the Yemeni anti- locust teams could control the locusts' movements in the few coming months.

Recently, Saudi Arabia has offered assistance to Yemen to fight locusts. The total assistance is estimated at 6 million Saudi Riyals . The Desert Locust Control Centre is expected to receive the aids at the end of this month. In addition, the Yemeni and Saudi experts team and Omani experts' team will join together to fight the locusts in the south areas directly after Eid vacation (on the mid of October).