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Last Updated: Thursday, 4 November, 2004, 16:37 GMT
African crops 'spared by locusts'
Two girls fight with locusts in Dakar, Senegal
Officials had feared the swarms would devastate crops
A locust invasion across swathes of West Africa has not severely affected food production, the UN says.

Despite fears the swarms would devastate crops and destroy harvests, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) says actual losses are limited.

Mauritania has been the worst-affected country, with up to half of all cereal crops consumed by the insects.

Many swarms are still present in Mauritania and Niger but are now moving away from Mali and Senegal.

"The harvest prospects are not as bad as feared," says FAO agricultural economist Jean Senahoun.

Bread-baskets

"Although the locusts damaged crops, it was often localised damage which did not have an important impact at a national level," he said.

The key crop-producing areas, the so-called "bread-baskets" were not affected, he said.

But Mr Senahoun warned that many rural households, especially in Mauritania, would face hardship and need fresh seeds, fertilisers and tools to replant their destroyed crops.

A sky swarming with desert locusts in Senegal
The skies of Senegal had been swarming with locusts

The locust infestation is one of the most severe in a decade.

Swarms have invaded swathes of northwest Africa and flown across the continent.

Small swarms have even arrived as far north as Cyprus and the Greek island of Crete.

FAO had warned the situation might develop into a plague unless urgent control measures were taken.

Such measures have successfully prevented widespread damage to food crops, it says.

Currently swarms are flying northwards and have reached the foothills of the Atlas mountains in Morocco and Algeria.

Other swarms have reached the Cape Verde islands, northern Mali and Niger.

Countries have been urged to prepare themselves for another upsurge in locust numbers next year

The body says it has now received almost half of the $100m needed to deal with the crisis.





SEE ALSO:
Locust crisis 'could get worse'
18 Oct 04 |  Africa
Taking arms against the swarms
07 Oct 04 |  Africa
Why locusts swarm
27 Mar 01 |  Science/Nature


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