A massive locust swarm is occurring in the African continent and is causing severe damage to regional agriculture. Millions of grasshoppers have already destroyed tens of thousands of hectares of crops and forage and resulted in the deaths of many farm animals. The disaster will affect food security for over 45 million people, and is leading to the likelihood of long term widespread catastrophic famine for both people and livestock.
Locust infestations are a plague older than the bible itself, and for millennia have wreaked havoc on Africa and the Middle East threatening its inhabitants with unpredictable and unstable harvests often leading to devastating regional famines and to internal civil strife. Locusts are a rare and final form of some grasshopper species that when conditions are optimal transform with wings and take to the air allowing them to turn into swarms of eating machines devouring anything green and lush in its flight path. Farmland, crops, and animal fodder can be completely decimated overnight turning peaceful agricultural communities of hard working farming and pastoral families into a desolate land of scarcity and uncertainty.
With regional African cooperation and finances lacking, it is proving very difficult to stop the insatiable swarms without coordinated global assistance. Generous rains and warmer winter weather conditions have allowed for the locust swarms to reach unusually large numbers, a prospect scientists fear could worsen with the continuation of climate change. African nations have asked for international assistance, and the Nation of Israel has responded.
At the direction of the Israeli Ministry of Agriculture, ALTA joined forces with professional pest control officials from the Ministry of Agriculture and Muller Professional Pest Control. The goal of this team was to deploy revolutionary methods to target the locusts with new technologies and insecticides that will reduce the locust population. With time of the essence, the team flew to East Africa looking for weaknesses in the winged insects armor.
Locusts are notoriously difficult to control; during the day, locusts swarm in constant motion, driven by the wind. This makes them poor daytime targets for effective insecticide treatment. However, during the night, the swarms settle and find a suitable resting place, they stay there for the whole night. This is the specific moment when they are most vulnerable to insecticide treatments, nocturnal eradication proved to be effective.
ALTA’s treatment utilizes advanced aerial systems for locating and targeting insecticide spray to capitalize on swarms at their biggest moment of weakness. Depending on the size and type of the swarm, ALTA locust control can be carried out by ground spray, planes or by dedicated skimmers, This approach yields exceptional results, and together in coordination with local people’s efforts were able to put a noticeable and necessary dent in the problem.
Over the past year, aid programs have written and implemented protocol for African countries in the fight against the locust plague. Also providing assistance in the form of technological equipment in addition to a great deal of knowledge that is learned on the subject and passed on to the locals in a one-week training workshop. In this way, the program empowers locals with training and equipment to fight locusts, adding to the strength of local capabilities. ALTA’s methods of nocturnal aerial surveillance and insecticide dispersal proved to be effective especially after repeated implementations and active management.