Mauritania

Locusts invade Mauritania

NOUAKCHOTT, Aug 4 (Reuters) - A massive locust swarm swept into the Mauritanian capital Nouakchott on Wednesday, devouring trees, bushes and parts of the city's main soccer pitch, residents said.

The city's inhabitants lit fires and rattled tin boxes filled with stones to try to chase away the insects, which are swarming down from North Africa and threaten to unleash the region's worst locust crisis for 15 years.

"The authorities have done nothing to stop this invasion. It'll destroy our crops and make us poorer," said Diop, a young Mauritanian trying to protect his city centre vegetable plot.

Desert locust swarms contain up to 80 million insects per square km and can travel more than 130 km (80 miles) a day. They can devastate entire crop fields in minutes, with adult locusts munching their own weight, or about two grams, of food a day.

Residents in Nouakchott compared the arrival of the pink-coloured swarm to the locust invasion of 1987-89, which was the worst in 30 years and sparked fears of famine. That plague took $300 million and operations in 28 states to contain.

France has said it is sending a team of experts from agronomical research centre CIRAD to Mauritania, Senegal, Mali and Niger -- all former French colonies -- to assess the scale of the latest invasion.

European donors have contributed two million euros ($2.4 million) to beef up an emergency fund run by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

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