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South Asia: Locust Infestation - Feb 2020

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In Pakistan, ground control operations continue in spring breeding areas of Baluchistan against hopper groups in the interior (Dalbandin) and near the coast in Turbat, Gwadar and Lasbela. Similar operations are in progress against hoppper and adult groups in a few summer areas of Nara and Cholistan deserts. Teams treated 4 625 ha on 1-15 June. Adult groups will move from Baluchistan to the summer breeding areas along the Indo-Pakistan border where more hatching and the formation of hopper groups will occur. (FAO, 20 Jun 2019)

In Pakistan, ground control operations (4 000 ha) are underway against groups of mature adults that are laying in adjacent areas of Tharparkar and Cholistan deserts. Hatching and band formation will occur during the remainder of July. A second generation of breeding could start as soon as mid-August south of Rohri near the Indus Valley in Pakistan where early breeding occurred in May. The scale and extent of the summer breeding will depend on this year's monsoon rains, which are so far about two weeks late in arriving to the breeding areas along both sides of the border. (FAO, 16 Jul 2019)

According to initial estimates by the Chamber of Agriculture, as much as 40 percent of crops in the country have been destroyed. This includes food crops such as wheat and vegetables and commodity crops such as cotton. The extended monsoon season has provided conditions that have allowed the locusts to continue breeding and surviving for longer in the Indo-Pakistan border region. Food insecurity is already high in the country, with over 3 million people in IPC Phases 3 and 4, particularly in Balochistan and Sindh provinces. Damage to crops at this magnitude is not only a threat to food security in the affected communities, but also poses a challenge for livelihoods as many rural farmers use the money from selling crops to pay off debt and survive financially during the off season. (ACAPS, 21 Nov 2019)

In South-West Asia, locust infestations are declining along both sides of the Indo-Pakistan border due to control operations, drying conditions and swarm migration towards the west. So far this month, Pakistan has treated more than 20 000 ha. Adult groups and swarms are expected to arrive in southwest Pakistan and southeast Iran during the next few weeks. Some swarms may continue moving west along the southern coast of Iran to areas of recent good rains. If temperatures remain warm, egg-laying could occur now, giving rise to hopper groups and bands in January; otherwise, breeding will commence in about February or March. Both countries are advised to be extremely vigilant in all areas and undertake regular surveys, supplemented by control operations whenever necessary. (FAO, 18 Dec 2019)

On 1 February, the government of Pakistan declared a national emergency over locust swarms, which have been destroying crops in Punjab region. The Ministry of National Food Security and Research and Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) endorsed a $500,000 Technical Cooperation Programme (TCP) to make FAO’s technical expertise available to national experts in order to strengthen their capacities to combat the Desert Locust infestation and improve locust management. (FAO, 16 Feb 2020)

Mature adult groups and swarmlets were seen copulating in Okara district of Punjab and Dera Ismail Khan and Lucky Marwat districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Spring breeding is in progress in the interior of Baluchistan between Khuzdar and Dalbandin, and on the southwest coast near Turbat where adult groups are laying eggs and early instar hopper groups are already forming. Ground teams treated 4 490 ha (18-29 Feb). New generation immature groups and swarms could start forming in Baluchistan by the end of March. (FAO, 3 Mar 2020)

As of 12 March, twenty one districts of Blochistan, Punjab, Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Provinces have been under the threat of desert locust infestation. The government has devised a national action plan for Desert Locust Control and Surveillance. Under the national action plan, districts committees are formed for coordination. 173 teams have been deployed across Pakistan in affected areas for surveillance and control of locust. FAO is providing technical, material and logistics support to the Ministry of Food Security. (OCHA, 12 Mar 2020)

A severe locust infestation is likely to affect domestic food production and vulnerable agropastoral populations. In North West Pakistan (former FATA), 1.27 million people are expected to be in Crisis or worse (IPC Phase 3 or above) by August 2020 (FSIN, 20 Apr 2020).

As of 26 April, overall 124,299 sq.km area has been surveyed in vulnerable areas, and 8,843 square kilometers have been treated. During the next few weeks, spring breeding will continue in coastal and interior areas of Baluchistan and an increasing number of hoppers will become adults and form groups as well as perhaps a few small swarms. There is no major presence of locust in Sindh, only some in Ghotki, near the border. This year the situation is aggravated as for the first time in many decades, there is a second threat of invasion by swarms in East Africa in late June and during July (FAO, 4 May 2020).

As of 13 May, new swarms from current breeding will form from mid-June onwards, coinciding with the start of the harvest. At this time, there is a risk that swarms will migrate to the summer breeding areas along both sides of the Indo-Pakistan border. In Pakistan, adult groups are migrating to the Indian border from breeding areas in Baluchistan and the Indus Valley where hopper groups are present as well as in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Control operations are underway in all affected provinces of Pakistan.(Govt. of Pakistan,13 May 2020)

[Three] Indian States of Madhya Pradesh (MP), Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh (UP) are currently dealing with locusts attack. This is the second round of locust attack in India after the December-February period. As per media reports, 17 districts of UP, 16 districts of Rajasthan and 12 districts of MP have been affected, with the standing crops having been destroyed. In Rajasthan, during the past weeks, small swarms of desert locusts, had already arrived from Pakistan, moving east into Rajasthan, and reaching Jodhpur. Agricultural departments of the affected states are launching initiatives to deal with the crisis. Locusts attacks in India usually last until November but this year the swarms stayed until February which scientists believe was due to the climate crisis. India has proposed a trilateral response in partnership with Pakistan and Iran to combat the desert locust wave sweeping across the Afro-Asian region. (ECHO, 25 May 2020)

As of 26 May, an estimated 1.5 million people have been affected by swarms of desert locusts since January 2020 in what is being called the worst locust outbreak in Pakistan in over 25 years. Pakistan is an important front-line country for desert locusts as it lies on their migratory route and because it covers both summer and winter/spring breeding areas. The existing situation in Pakistan is far worse than initially anticipated, affecting significant areas of food crops, orchards, and fodder, with negative consequences on food security, nutrition, and livelihoods across all provinces. The ongoing response to eradicate and control the locust swarms is being led by the Government with the support of the international community. (OCHA, 26 May 2020)