Locust invasion takes centre stage in Dakar

Dakar - A conference on fighting locusts currently attacking West Africa recommended on Thursday setting up national funds in countries hit by an invasion which has exacerbated the impact of drought and may cause a food crisis in sub-Saharan Africa.

A report at the end of a three-day conference to explore ways to manage and eradicate locust populations urged "creation of a national fund for the anti-locust struggle in each country," plus regional coordination and a new centre for research into locusts.

The report further urged good communications policies towards outside donor countries likely to provide assistance.

It warned of the need to supervise the quality of pesticides, calling for greater use of information technology and bio-pesticides.

The conference brought together 50 agriculture ministers and experts from African countries affected by the problem.

Guinea's Agriculture Minister Jean-Paul Sarr told the meeting his country had been the victim of a locust invasion since January 3 affecting major areas in the northwest.

Joao De Carvalho, agriculture minister of Guinea-Bissau, made an appeal for assistance for his country which also fallen victim to a new locust plague.

The Guinea-Bissau government announced last week it needed $5-million to fight locust swarms invading the country since the beginning of January.

The United Nations food agency warned last Friday that locust plagues in north and west Africa remained serious and urged no let-up in battling the swarms that have infested millions of hectares of farm land in the region.

"Despite recent improvements, the desert locust situation remains serious in western Africa where vigilance and intensive control operations are still needed," the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said.

Last month in Rome, the agency said Sub-Saharan Africa's record invasion of locusts backed by years of conflict had exacerbated the impact of drought which would probably spur a food crisis.

In its final report for 2004 on Africa, FAO said donors had provided 2.8 million tons to meet African needs and would be asked to increase contributions for 2005 because of production losses in north and west Africa due to the locust invasion, the worst in more than a decade, and the ongoing crisis in Sudan. - Sapa-AFP

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