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Why farmers in Magwi still worried after locusts left the area

Author: Okot Emmanuel | Published: Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Farmers in Magwi County have resorted to setting fires and making noise in attempts to ward off the locusts- Photo by Okot Emmanuel/Eye Radio. Date: Feb. 29, 2020

The desert locusts that have invaded farms in Magwi County in Eastern Equatoria for the past two weeks are now a cause for renewed worry for farmers as new swarms begin to hatch.

Experts said significant numbers of hatching have been spotted along migratory paths that have already suffered a first round of incursion.

Vast swarms of desert locusts are moving in some parts of the country, devouring crops and threatening food supplies and livelihoods.

In Magwi County, the newly hatched hoppers are already attempting to fly. Within weeks they are expected to turn into adults and begin consuming their weight- that is roughly two grams every day.

Magwi is one of the counties struck by the deadly locust swarm in Eastern Equatoria state.

On 18 February 2020, the first wave of the invasion started sweeping across Magwi, Lobone, Panyikwara, and Owiny-Kibul.

They have already spread to Torit, Obbo, Palwa and Pajok areas.

Farmers in Magwi County have resorted to setting fires and making noise in attempts to ward off the locusts.

But they fear prolonged locust invasion as eggs hatch from the first wave.

For Ogeno Odeg Oliech, it is his first time to see the locusts.

“When the swarms arrived and landed on this Murenga tree, for five to 30 minutes the tree had no leaf left and this is the example you can see. This is my first time to see what locusts can do. They were all over,” Oliech narrated.

“We resorted to burning the vegetation to chase them and they leaf, there is nothing we could do apart from bush burning,” he added.

Ochan Ali is another farmer in Lobone. He said the destruction has been huge in the farming community of Lobone.

“It had been dangerous here in Lobone, the locust has been invading Lobone and it slept over in Omea Boma and cleared everything and it is not easy and we are not viewing it in a good way. We even heard another swam is coming,” he stated.

“Our request is that because you know Lobone weather is different, the locust came when we had crops in the farm and all this crop is were consumed and what I know is hunger is going to kill us.”

“The locust delivered eggs and started hatching already, I don’t know how we are going to manage to farm this year. We request the NGOs and the government to come to our rescue,” Ali concluded.

Another farmer in Panyikwara says there is imminent hunger in the area due to the destruction done by the locusts.

“We have a burden and the burden is the locust invasion,” Salvatore David stressed.

“It (locust) has reached here, it started destroying farms from Maji and it moves towards those end of Ayom.”

“Last year heavy rains and flood destroyed our farms and now again we have the locust, This year we are suffering, we don’t know how to sustain our life,” he lamented.

Authorities in Magwi County urged the national government and Nongovernmental organizations to put sustained efforts to fight the insects.

“Spraying using a hand pan may not be effective enough, the locust currently as I speak laid eggs where they passed from and in the onset of the rain we expect them to hatch,” he said.

“We urge the government and the NGOs to improvise a means of fighting the locust apart from bush burning that the communities have embraced.”

Last week, a team from UNFAO and the World Food Program arrived Magwi to contain the situation, but they are still waiting for directives from Juba to start spraying the insects.

Meanwhile, a civil society activist, Edmund Yakani believes the slow response to fighting the locust invasion is caused by a delay in forming the new unity government.

“The function of the government has been delayed because the technocrats have limited mandate, for instance, the locust coming in, and I know the ministry of agriculture is struggling to fight the locust but we need to have a political decision to fight the locust,” Yakani stressed.

According to the recent Integrated Phase Classification reports, more than half of the South Sudanese are already facing hunger.

In locust invaded areas, the pests are laying countless eggs that are expected to hatch within weeks, raising concerns among farmers that the worst is yet to come.

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