BAMAKO, March 25, 2010—The Africa Emergency Locust Project (AELP), a seven-nation program aimed at establishing a sustainable locust management system has shown success in putting in place early warning systems designed to prevent a devastating infestation in an area that is already grappling with a challenging climate and its impact on food security.
The AELP was prepared on an emergency basis between September and December 2004 to help Burkina Faso, Chad, Gambia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Senegal cope with an unprecedented locust infestation that had wiped out agricultural produce in the Sahel region within weeks. The World Bank responded favorably to a request of governments and the international community, led by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, by providing a US$60 million credit from the International Development Association to contribute to this international effort.
The goal was to reduce the vulnerability of beneficiary countries and strengthen desert locust prevention, early warning, and control strategies, as well as mitigate the socioeconomic and environmental impact on affected areas. The project entailed three components: supporting emergency desert locust control efforts in order to address the 2004-2005 invasion; reducing the impact of the locust infestation on populations and the environment; and supporting the implementation of a more robust locust prevention and risk management strategy, both nationally and regionally.
A Collaborative Effort
To date, the project has supported institutional reforms that have facilitated the establishment, in frontline countries, of autonomous anti-locust units, which are critical from a sustainability standpoint. Institutional and technical capacity has been strengthened through the acquisition of equipment needed for the survey, surveillance, and control of this destructive pest, by training staff and building infrastructure. The project has also assisted with the development and dissemination of pesticide management practices that comply with international standards. Support has been provided for a program to develop biopesticides, particularly in the context of preventive measures.
Working in close collaboration with the Desert Locust Control Committee and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, the project is supporting the development of a locust risk management plan in the western region, as well as the establishment of a sustainable financing mechanism that will allow countries of the region to be better prepared for future locust crises.
To ensure the sustainability of gains, the project launched a sectoral review of plant protection at the request of target countries, which had underscored the fact that the sustainability of the locust risk management system would be contingent on an enhanced plant protection system. The sectoral review aimed at facilitating the detection of key problems from a perspective that took into account economic and environmental aspects, as well as pesticide management, and plant protection. It would also identify the strengths and weaknesses of the institutional and regulatory framework, and formulate recommendations aimed at bolstering this sector, which is critical to agricultural productivity.
While target countries have overall made progress with the implementation of the project, some activities have been delayed due a number of setbacks. These include late project kickoff, the slow pace of institutional reforms related to the establishment of national, autonomous anti-locust centers, political disturbances in a number of the countries concerned, and delays with the preparation of environmental management plans for the storage of pesticides.
More than Four Million Farmers Served
Currently, the project is well on its way to achieving its development goal, following the one year extension that was granted, to June 30, 2010, to complete activities underway and ensure the sustainability of gains made.
The team is also maintaining a guarded outlook in the case of Mali and Niger, where unsafe conditions have complicated activities on the ground for many months. “If this situation persists for an extended period, the possibility of achieving the project’s development goal will have to be reviewed,” warned Denis Jordy, the project leader.
More than four million individuals who sustained harvest losses as a result of the desert locust infestation in 2004 have received assistance from the project in the form of agricultural inputs, microgrants, and microprojects, which are intended to restore their productive capacity and boost their income.