Ethiopia: Locust threat in the east

ADDIS ABABA, 8 May 2007 (IRIN) - A swarm of locusts is likely to infest the eastern part of Ethiopia in mid-June, the Desert Locust Control Organization for Eastern Africa (DLCO-EA) has warned.

Abdurahman Abdulahi, senior research officer at DLCO-EA, told IRIN there was a potential threat to the Somali region, which shares a border with Somalia.

The regional state had faced a similar desert locust outbreak in Denbel, Aisha and Afdem woredas in Shinnile zone in April 2007.

According to its monthly Desert Locust Bulletin, the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) stated that the aerial and ground-control operations treated 296 hectares of land in April.

"Although some of the areas have been treated, the locusts that survived the controlling operations in April will begin to hatch in mid-May and will began infesting the area in June," Abdurahman said.

He said there was a report of hatching in Harewa, Mito and Hare locations. The crop protection department of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development had sent an assessment team to Harewa, 45km away from Dire Dawa, to control the hatching.

"The assessment teams found locusts that covered 900 hectares in Harewa on 3 May and were taking controlling measures," he explained.

He said there was no immediate threat to grazing lands or the harvest. However, Abdurahman warned that if control measures were not taken immediately, the locust swarms would make a difference to when the crops began growing.

"We have got information at an early stage so it is easy to control the infestation with our two aircrafts based in Dire Dawa," he added.