South Asia’s “old-fashioned” India and Pakistan have been fighting for years over Kashmir, but in recent months the two countries have held rare lying five meetings. The five talks were not about political disputes, but about a bigger enemy of both countries: desert locusts. In deed, this wave of disasters has affected the food security of more than one billion people on two continents.
Original title: How did the locust plague eat hundreds of millions of people’s food come about? Even India and Pakistan sit down and talk.
Journalists . . . Anjing
So how did these army of rare locusts, which amounted to hundreds of billions of them, come about? How big is the threat to our country?
Locust plague pressure
On February 1st Pakistan declared a state of emergency after the worst desert locust disaster in 27 years. 16, the southeastern province of Sindh and the southwestern province of Balochistan preliminary statistics show that locust plague has caused the destruction of 80,000 hectares of crops, including wheat, barley, vegetables, cotton, horticultural crops.
In India, the worst is yet to come, even though the country’s worst locust plague in 26 years was brought under control at the end of January. The Indian government has warned that the country will see more severe locust attacks in June. Some Indian scholars predict that the locust plague will cause India’s food production to be reduced by 30-50%.
In East and Middle East Africa, Yemen, Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Oman, Iran and Saudi Arabia have all been affected by locust plagues. Kenya has suffered its worst locust plague in 70 years, and Somalia has declared a state of emergency.
As of Jan. Photo credit: FAO
The United Nations has issued a warning on the 10th of this month, calling on the international community to act immediately to prevent desert locusts from causing a “disaster” in the Horn of Africa. It is estimated that 20 million people in the region will be affected by locust swarms of food.
More than 13 million people are already living in severe food insecurity in Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Djibouti, and 20 million others are on the brink of severe food insecurity.
This year’s historic locust plague will undoubtedly add to the problem of food safety.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, a desert locust can eat about 2 grams of food a day, equivalent to its own weight.
A common-sized desert locust population, consisting of 40 million locusts, can fly up to 150 kilometers in a day, eating 35,000 people or 20 camels or six elephants a day.
A desert locust population can range in size from one square kilometer to hundreds of square kilometers.
It follows a 40km-wide, 60-kilometer-long swarm of locusts in south-eastern Kenya, home to as many as 150 million locusts in a square kilometre area.
Uganda is suffering from locust plagues. Photo: Twitter
Even more frightening is the ability of desert locusts to reproduce. Depending on the weather and the environment, desert locusts survive for about three months each generation. If conditions are right, the population of locusts can increase 20 times for each generation they breed.
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization has warned that if countries do not act, the population of locusts will increase 400-fold by June this year.
The formation of locust plague
Desert locusts are locusts that live in desert areas and can switch between the two states of lodging and swarming. The desert locusts, which live alone, are not lethal and are found mainly in the hot deserts of North Africa, the Middle East and South-West Asia.
This distribution zone covers approximately 16 million square kilometres and covers more than 30 countries.
Miraculously, there is a clear difference in appearance and behavior between desert locusts living alone and desert locusts living in their own countries. The desert locusts that live alone are light brown, the adult swarms turn yellow and the yellow before they mature.
On the left is a desert locust living alone, and on the right is a swarm of desert locusts. Photo credit: Cambridge University
Researchers at the University of Cambridge in the UK have previously compared the brains of lone and swarmed desert locusts and found that the brains of locusts are 30 per cent larger than those living alone.
Desert locusts switch from living alone to swarms usually occur when drought and food are scarce. In search of new food, desert locusts will gather to move together. When switching to herd mode, desert locusts can explode during continuous rainfall and wet weather.
This year’s historic plague of locusts has been traced back to two cyclones in 2018.
In an interview with National Geographic, Keith Cressman, a senior FAO locust forecaster, said that in May 2018, Cyclone Mekunu hit an uninhabited desert in the southern Arabian Peninsula, causing seasonal lakes in the desert.
Since the desert was originally home to desert locusts, the emergence of lakes created the conditions for the first rapid breeding of locusts.
Five months later, Cyclone Luban hit the border between Yemen and Oman near the no-man’s land, again fueling the breeding of locusts.
Kreismann speculates that the two cyclones helped the local desert locusts breed for three generations in just nine months, increasing the number of locusts in the Arabian desert by 8,000.
After the explosive breeding, in search of new food, the local desert locusts began a journey across continents.
In the spring of 2019, the first locusts will enter Yemen, Saudi Arabia and Iran. Iran’s locust populationcontinued into Pakistan in June, and the prolonged rainy season in Pakistan and India once again provided excellent conditions for the breeding of locusts.
In the summer months, a second group of locusts crosses the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden into Ethiopia and Somalia. In October, East Africa experienced a rare heavy rain, followed by another cyclone that made landfall in Somalia in December. This series of humid climates has contributed to the continued growth of locust populations.
By the end of December, locusts began to enter Kenya, sweeping through the country’s northern and central regions. By January, Kenya had suffered its worst locust plague in 70 years. The last time Kenya suffered a locust plague was in 2007, when it was nowhere near as big as this year.
Since then, both Eritrea and Djibouti have been plagued by locust plagues, which have arrived in Uganda and Tanzania on the 9th of this month.
As for why many countries are experiencing such a large-scale locust plague, researchers believe that climate change is the main reason.
The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) reported that the Horn of Africa (north-eastern Africa) experienced the heaviest rainfall on record in October and December last year, affected by the Indian Ocean dipole (the Indian Ocean sea temperature anomaly, similar to El Ni?o). Rainfall in some areas is 400 per cent normal.
In 2018, the southern Arabian Peninsula was hit by two cyclones; In previous years, there have been few or no cyclones in the area. This hot and humid climate provides perfect conditions for the explosive breeding of desert locusts.
At the same time, researchers have pointed out that the political problems of countries have also become the “complicit” of the locust plague.
As a result of years of civil war, Yemen lacks the system and capacity to prevent locust plagues, resulting in an unobstructed expansion of locust swarms and displacement of other countries. In Somalia, parts of the country are controlled by the terrorist group Al-Shabaab in Somalia, and the Government is unable to take preventive and control measures in the areas concerned.
Keep preparing for war.
Killing is currently the most effective way to predict the path of action of locust swarms. There are three main methods of killing: aircraft spraying insecticides, cars or artificial ground spraying.
The best defense, the researchers say, is to find areas where locusts may congregate, prepare to switch to a swarm state, and kill them before they become swarms. Such areas are usually semi-arid and rainfall-rich locations.
In the face of this year’s super locust plague, many countries have taken steps to try to contain the situation.
The Kenyan government has invested $5 million in locust control, sending five aircraft and ground crews to spray insecticides. Similar actions have been taken in Ethiopia and Somalia.
Pakistan signed two agreements with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization on the 16th. FAO will provide $700,000 in aid to Pakistan to help it cope with locust plagues.
But the United Nations has previously warned that air and ground spraying measures in the areas are far from enough, calling on the international community to raise $76 million in emergency funds to deal with the locust plague. As of 10, the United Nations had collected only $20 million.
FAO warned again on the 15th that a new spawning of desert locusts has begun, and the next batch of locusts will hit in March and April. India is already preparing for a bigger locust plague that could occur in June.
The March to June locust population is expected to move. Photo credit: FAO
As to whether the locust plague will affect China, China’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs information shows that China’s history of flying locusts and desert locusts have similar habits of migration, but belong to different biological species.
Due to China’s topography and climate characteristics, the probability of desert locusts harming China is very small, the risk of large-scale outbreak of locustplague in China is very low. There has been no record of desert locust hazards in Chinese history, but experts speculate that there is a distribution of desert locusts in Juramu in Yunnan and Tibet Autonomous Region.
Coupled with the barrierbetween the Kunlun and Himalayamountains along the Chinese border, locusts have difficulty crossing cold areas at high altitudes. The southern border of southern Tibet and western Yunnan is adjacent to the desert locust-intake areas of Nepal and Myanmar, and there may be a small influx with the monsoon, but the probability of harm is small.