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Second African locust swarm of the year 20 times bigger than the first

the UN Food and Agriculture Organization
the French Agricultural Research Center for International Development
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Matt Simon
Keith Cressman
Cyril Piou
Michel Lecoq

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the Persian Gulf
Arabian Peninsula

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East Africa
South Sudan
West Africa

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The New York Times
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Back in January, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) predicted the worst was still to come, and that by June, the size of the swarms could grow by a factor of 500.And now, at the worst time, a second wave of locusts 20 times bigger than the first has descended on the region, thanks to heavy rains late last month, according to the FAO. New swarms are particularly severe in Kenya, Ethiopia, and Somalia."The timing is really horrendous, because the farmers are just planting, and the seedlings are just coming up now since it's the beginning of the rainy season," says Keith Cressman, senior locust forecasting officer with the FAO. “The main problem is that these exceptional rains occurred in an area where there's a lot of insecurity, wars, and so on, so the initial stages of the upsurge of the outbreaks were not detected in time,” says entomologist Michel Lecoq, former director of the French Agricultural Research Center for International Development.This lapse in detection unfolded despite the best efforts of the FAO, which coordinates a complex network of data collectors to detect the locusts early, before they have time to go gregarious and swarm. "And unfortunately that's exactly the same time when the next generation of swarms will be forming," says Cressman.With nations elsewhere wrapped up in fighting the coronavirus pandemic, the growing locust threat may not get the attention, and humanitarian aid, it needs. “So if we don't stop it now,” Piou says, “we are going to have swarms rolling from country to country."To keep that from happening, Piou is working with countries in the region to predict where the locusts might land next.

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