Tajikistan

Tajikistan: Efforts under way to control new locust invasion

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DUSHANBE, 16 May 2007 (IRIN) - Locust invasions in Tajikistan in the past few weeks have destroyed crops and cotton plantations over an area of almost 45,000 hectares.

According to the Tajik Agriculture Ministry, the southern Khatlon Oblast is the most affected area. Here 23,350 hectares have been invaded by locusts. A little over half of the affected area was being treated.

Five central districts and parts of the northern Soghd province have also been invaded by locusts, ministry officials reported on Tuesday.

The locust invasion was also detected in Rudaki district, just 15km south of Dushanbe. "If the locusts are not eradicated in Rudaki district, they may soon attack Dushanbe," Uzarbek Mustafokulov, director of Tajikistan's plant protection and quarantine institute, told IRIN in the capital, Dushanbe, on Tuesday.

Drought

Experts say that this year's locust invasion is related to the drought that has affected the area over the past two years.

The locusts usually concentrate on mountain pastures and forests and when there is no grass due to drought they migrate and devour agricultural crops, specialists explained.

International aid

So far the Tajik authorities have managed to treat 20,140 of hectares affected by locusts but officials say there is a need for international assistance to fully overcome the current invasions.

"We need to fight locusts every year. All the necessary equipment - provided by FAO [the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization] - is available now, but we lack pesticides," Mustafokulov added.

In 2003-2004 FAO provided technical support, equipment and pesticides to fight the locusts, and also built up the capacity of local farms and villagers to fight the infestations.

"Usually this is the time of year when locusts invade, but so far FAO has not provided any financial or technical support. We've applied for financial assistance and are waiting for a response from donors," Vladimir Mogilyov from the FAO office in Tajikistan said.

"There should be a regional project in the Central Asian countries - Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and neighbouring Afghanistan - to eradicate it from all sides," Mogilyov said. "In June we are expecting another locust invasion that is usually brought by the wind from Afghanistan."

Until Tajikistan became independent in 1991, locust control in the country was conducted with resources made available by the central Soviet government. During Soviet times, two mobile locust control teams operated in the country and also provided services to neighbouring Afghanistan, Tajik officials said. Following the break-up of the Soviet Union, locust control measures have slipped back.

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