During the course of 2004, several West African countries fell victim to the largest locust invasion in 15 years. Millions of hectares of crops and pasture were destroyed by giant swarms of insects. By October 2004, ten different West and North African countries were affected - Algeria, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Chad, Mali, Morocco, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal, and Western Sahara.
Countries invaded by the locusts were rapidly overwhelmed. Notwithstanding the significant financial and human resources eventually mobilized, the catastrophe grew as swarms multiplied across the region. Sub-regional solidarity between affected countries, which were eventually assisted by the international community, allowed for a massive eradication campaign. Still, the locust invasions left severely reduced food security prospects for thousands of West African communities in 2004 and into 2005.
In early October 2004 a USAID/OFDA DART was deployed to Senegal and Mauritania to respond to locust swarms. Disaster response specialists from the USDA Forest Service (Ron Libby, George Battaglia , Gina Papke , and Jim Ellenwood); and the Bureau of Land Management ( Bill Laspina and Eva Brown) served on the team in a variety of positions. Their duties included liaison and flight operation coordination, swarm tracking using GIS , treatment prioritization, daily flight plan preparation, and conducting field assessments in the most affected areas. This locust outbreak was the worst since 1987-1989, which required large international donor contributions.