BISSAU, 14 Jan 2005 (IRIN) - Guinea-Bissau has dropped plans
to use aircraft to spray swarms of locusts which have invaded
the small West African country since most of the insects are
concentrated in heavily populated and densely forested areas,
the local representative of the UN Food and Agriculture
Organisation (FAO) said.
Because of concerns over the possible adverse effect on
people and on the delicate forest ecosystem of spraying
pesticides by air, the government instead has decided to
control the locusts from the ground, using specially equipped
trucks borrowed from neighbouring Senegal, Rui Fonseca told
However, no trucks or pesticide from Senegal have arrived yet
to deal with the insects, which can eat their own weight of
vegetation each day. So almost a month after the 19 December
arrival of the first swarms in Guinea-Bissau, control
operations have yet to begin.
Marcelino Martins, the Director of Agriculture at the
Ministry of Agriculture, told Radio Bombolom, a private radio
station in Bissau, that the government had no spraying
equipment or pesticides of its own to use against the swarms
of immature pink locusts that threaten the country's food
crops and fruit trees.
The government is particularly concerned about possible
damage to this year's harvest of cashew nuts. Cashews are
Guinea-Bissau's main export and the principal source of cash
income for two thirds of its peasant farmers.
The locust invasion from Senegal comes as cashew nut trees
are flowering and are particularly susceptible to damage.
Government officials said on Thursday that 700 hectares of
cashew nut plantations were infested with locusts in Biombo
district, one of the country's main cashew producing areas.
Guinea-Bissau exported 93,000 tonnes of cashew nuts last year
which earned the former Portuguese colony US$61 million in
The crop is vital as a source of cash income, and indirectly
as food, for the country's peasant farmers.
They sell the raw nuts to traders for up to 400 CFA francs
(80 US cents) per kg, but often they simply barter a 50 kg
bag of cashew nuts directly for a 50 kg of rice, the staple
food of Guinea-Bissau's 1.3 million population.
Mango and orange trees and food crops have also been ravaged
by the biggest locust invasion of the country in living
Sambaro Cande, a farmer in in the village of Bantanjam near
the Senegalese frontier, told IRIN his fields of cassava had
"The cassava was supposed to feed my family of 40 people for
six months, but all three of my fields have been hit and I am
afraid we are going to go hungry," he said.
The semi-arid Sahel belt of West Africa suffered its worst
locust invasion for 15 years in 2004, but most of the swarms
moved north across the Sahara in November to their winter
feeding and breeding grounds in North Africa.
However, some swarms were blown south. They eventually
reached southern Senegal, where there have not so far been
reports of serious crop damage, Guinea-Bissau, and some
northern districts of Guinea-Conakry.