News Excerpt
In recent times, there have been major locust attacks in several countries in the western and southern Asia and in eastern Africa. The situation is extremely alarming in three regions – the Horn of Africa, the Red Sea area, and southwest Asia. The countries worst affected includes Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Yemen, Iran, Pakistan and India.
In India, it has affected border villages in Rajasthan, Gujarat and Punjab – causing heavy damage to standing crop prompting state governments to sound high alert against locust attacks.

About Locusts
●    They are a group of short-horned grasshoppers which have a swarming phase, it forms the part of the Acrididae family.  
●    Though they are usually solitary, in certain circumstances they become more abundant and gregarious.
●    Under normal circumstances, they don’t affect agriculture, but in situations where there is rapid vegetation growth after a condition of drought, serotonin in their brains triggers a dramatic set of changes.
●    This situation causes abundant breed thereby making them gregarious and nomadic (or migratory).
●    They form bands of wingless nymphs which later become swarms of winged adults. Both the bands and the swarms move around and rapidly strip fields and cause damage to crops.
●    There are four species of locusts found in India these are:
o    Desert Locust (Schistocerca gregaria)
o    Migratory Locust (Locusta migratoria)
o    Bombay Locust (Nomadacris succincta)
o    Tree Locust (Anacridium sp.)
●    They attack leaves, flowers, fruits, seeds, bark and growing points, and also destroy plants by their sheer weight.
●    The desert locust is most destructive, with a small swarm covering one square kilometer being able to consume the same amount of food in one day as 35,000 people.

Extent of Present Problems
⮚    The present problem brings the reminiscence of the 1950swhen this problem first occurred.
⮚    In 2019, monsoon not only started before time but lasted a month extra. This situation created excellent breeding conditions for the locust. While at the same time good monsoon provided natural vegetation on which they could feed longer.
⮚    State of Rajasthan is witnessing third generation of locust breeding which though is weak but breeds fast.
⮚    In the month of October, 2019 peak infestation was reported in Rajasthan and Gujarat.
⮚    As natural vegetation dried out in December, the swarms got into cultivated areas and caused damage.
⮚    Natural predators like birds do eat locusts but they are not enough to significantly reduce locust population level.

Climate Change and locusts
    Desert locusts thrive in the arid and semi-arid region. As the climate changes and temperature rises, locust swarms may cause more damage.
    Since, 20 of the fastest warming countries globally are in Africa, it is worst affected.
    Similarly, the wet weather in Horn of Africa due to Indian ocean dipole favors the multiplication of locust.

Countering the locusts
Direct Ways
    Use of organophosphate chemicals and aerial sprayers.
    Extend the research for biological and non-chemical control with focus on pathogens and insect growth regulators.

Indirect Ways
    There is need to deploy climate action solutions such as decentralizing solar dryers to agro-value chain actors can ensure that they can earn up to 30 times more by being able to preserve their harvest and sell during the offseason or gives them flexibility to compensate for unpredictable events such as these locust swarms.
    There is also a need to create enterprise opportunities for auxiliary value chains of fabricating these solar dryers. Interventions like this are critical to increase climate resilience for some of the most vulnerable communities across the continent.