June 6th, 2007 08:11 EST
Yemen's worst locust outbreak in years threatens crops
Yemen faces its worst outbreak of crop-devouring locusts in nearly 15 years, a United Nations agency warned today, urging action to head off the damage.
The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) called in a news release for a helicopter survey and control campaign to avoid massive infestations and serious damage to food crops.
“Widespread breeding is in progress within a large and remote area of an estimated 31,000 square kilometres in the interior of Yemen, where locust swarms are likely to form,” said FAO expert Keith Cressman, who has just returned from a weeklong assessment mission to the country.
He estimated that overall, between 50,000 and 75,000 hectares may have to be treated this summer.
The situation could be exacerbated in the coming days by heavy rains and high winds associated with a very strong tropical cyclone over Oman, the agency warned.
It noted that the Government of Yemen is mobilizing national funds to address the problem but international assistance will be necessary to support this effort.
According to FAO, a “very small part” of an average locust swarm eats the same amount of food in one day as about 2,500 people.