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Sahelian West Africa (Senegal & Mauritania) Locust Response (2004)

During July and September 2003, favorable climatic conditions resulted in increased locust breeding levels throughout Sahelian West Africa. The density of the swarms increased during October and November in Mauritania, Mali, and Niger, and the locusts became gregarious. With an average life span of four months, each gregarious female can lay up to 200 eggs in its lifetime. The locusts matured from July to October in Mali and Niger, and then moved on to Northwest Africa for a second breeding cycle from December 2003 to March 2004. In June, the first swarms of desert locusts moved from the spring breeding areas in Morocco and Algeria to the Sahel. With intensive control operations, the situation in Northwest Africa improved by the end of July, and only residual locust populations remained in Morocco and Algeria, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). However, by July, the swarms that had moved southward laid eggs in Senegal, Mauritania, Mali, and Niger. These swarms were highly mobile and difficult to spray before maturation. The summer rains in the Sahel provided the locusts with ideal survival and breeding conditions, and an even greater number of swarms are expected to arrive in Northwest and Northwestern Africa in the coming weeks. The current locust outbreak is the worst since 1987-1989, which required international donor contributions of approximately $300 million.

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In an effort to more effectively manage the USG response, a disaster assistance response team (DART) from the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance was deployed to the region to provide a more responsive and 'on the ground' presence. Disaster response specialists from the US Forest Service (Ron Libby, George Battaglia, Gina Papke, and Jim Ellenwood) and the Bureau of Land Management (Bill Laspina and Eva Brown) were called on to serve on the team from October to December 2004. These specialists staffed a variety of positions from GIS coordinator to Locust Emergency Officer. The primary duty of most of the team was liaison and flight operation coordination to the Joint Operation Center. Each evening the Flight Ops Coordinator helped facilitate information gathered by each country's field monitoring teams into a target prioritization list of locust swarms. This team was also responsible for developing the daily flight plan for the spraying operations. Other members of the team were responsible for producing all of the GIS data used to track the swarms. The team also conducted field assessments in the most affected areas to determine the appropriate USG response to the crisis.

Mauritania: The number of swarms has begun declining in Mauritania as control interventions have intensified and escapee swarms move northward. Unless rains begin falling in the winter/spring breeding areas in Mauritania, it is likely that control operations for this summer will be concluded within two to three weeks. As of November 3, a total of 735,232 of the estimated 1.6 million hectares infested had been treated with pesticides, according to the Ministry of Rural Development and of the Environment. Treatment teams from the USAID/DART and the locust control units from Mauritania and Senegal have been operating since October 10. As of November 3, the USAID/DART aerial spray campaign had treated 230,686 hectares in Mauritania, representing nearly a third of the treated areas to date in the country. WFP has warned of a potential food crisis in the country resulting from locust invasion and drought, since under normal conditions Mauritania manages to grow only enough food to meet a third of national requirements. The joint FAO/CILSS/WFP Crop Assessment Mission will provide information on the extent of the locust invasion's impact on food security in Mauritania.

Senegal: The locust situation has improved as aerial and ground control operations have intensified since early October. Senegal's MOA reported that control operations were effective in protecting vulnerable crops and pasture, as well as in significantly reducing locust numbers over vast areas, including the Senegal River Basin in Mauritania and Senegal. As of November 3, the MOA and USAID/OFDA's Assistance for Emergency Locust/Grasshopper Abatement (AELGA) project reported that a total of 667,277 hectares had been treated with pesticides, of which 95,714 were sprayed by the USAID/DART and the locust control unit from Senegal.

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