Locusts devastate orchards of north Somalia

By Abdiqani Hassan

KARIN, Somalia, June 26 (Reuters) - As if war and hunger were not enough, swarms of locusts have appeared in Somalia, blotting out the sky and destroying orchards.

Millions of the insects appeared three days ago in the semi-autonomous northeastern province of Puntland, stripping bare hundreds of acres of mango, orange and pawpaw farms.

A Reuters witness saw thousands of branchless trees in Karin village, in the worst-affected area.

"I have lost fruits worth $7,000," said farmer Said Abdullahi, 58, standing in shock at his destroyed orchard in Karin. "I had just started harvesting when the locusts struck three days ago. I don't know what to do."

Traders at the region's main port, Bosasso, said fruit market prices had soared following the devastation in Karin and another two villages that normally supply the coastal city.

"We no longer receive fruits and spices from our suppliers," said trader Sahra Abdi in the virtually empty market.

"A pawpaw is going at 26,000 Somali shillings ($1.50) from 12,000 three days ago. I think very soon Bosasso will have to do without fruit altogether."

Puntland has generally been spared the violence racking south Somalia for the last 16 years, but has major food needs like the rest of the Horn of Africa nation of 10 million people.

Swarms of locusts were spotted in Bosasso itself on Tuesday, blocking out the sun and sky, according to locals.

Ali Jama Farah, Puntland's minister of livestock and agriculture, said his administration was powerless against the menace. "We have no capacity to stop them," he said.

"We are still looking for a chemical that can kill the locusts. We have also sent a sample of the locust abroad for a check-up so that we can know what chemical to use."

Amal Abdullahi, another farmer whose fruits the locusts cleared out, says he tried in vain to kill the marauders.

"The locusts form a huge shade when they pass over you," she said. "We even tried to hit them with metallic plates in vain. They ate every green tree in sight."


Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
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