FAO warns of severe locust outbreak across 8 provinces in Afghanistan

A widespread Moroccan locust outbreak in Afghanistan provinces worsens the humanitarian crisis the country is facing.

May 12, 2023 05:03 pm | Updated 05:04 pm IST - Kabul, Afghanistan, May 12

Swarms of locusts in Pakistan in 2020. Image used for representative purpose only.

Swarms of locusts in Pakistan in 2020. Image used for representative purpose only. | Photo Credit: S Sudershan

The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has warned about a widespread Moroccan locust outbreak across eight provinces in Afghanistan’s wheat-growing north and northeast region, Khaama Press reported.

In addition to Badakhshan, Badghis, Baghlan, Balkh, Kunduz, Samangan, Sar-e-Pul, and Takhar, there have been reports of locust sightings in the provinces of Herat and Ghor in Afghanistan.

This occurs as the country is experiencing a severe humanitarian catastrophe under the hardline regime of the Taliban. According to the analysis, Afghanistan will still be experiencing the greatest humanitarian crisis in the world in 2023, and the widespread Moroccan Locust outbreak in the aforementioned districts will worsen matters.

“The reports of Moroccan Locust outbreak in Afghanistan’s wheat basket is a huge concern. The Moroccan locust eats more than 150 species of plants, including tree crops, pastures, and 50 food crops, all of which grow in Afghanistan. It represents an enormous threat to farmers, communities, and the entire country,” said the FAO Representative in Afghanistan, Richard Trenchard, according to Khaama Press.

The Moroccan locust is one of the most expensive plant pests in the world. According to the FAO, crop losses from this year’s epidemic might range from 700,000 to 1.2 million tonnes of wheat, leading to economic loss.

“The last two big outbreaks, 20 and 40 years ago, cost Afghanistan an estimated 8 and 25 % of its total annual wheat production. Harvest forecasts this year are the best we have seen for the last three years - but this outbreak threatens to destroy all these recent gains and dramatically worsen the food insecurity situation later this year and into next year,” Mr. Trenchard said further, according to Khaama Press.

Afghanistan’s economic and political situation has only worsened since the Taliban took control of the country in mid-August of 2021.

Afghanistan is currently grappling with a severe humanitarian crisis as, according to international assessments, the country now has the highest number of people in emergency food insecurity.

Additionally, the Ukraine crisis has had a massive impact on the rise in food costs and how it was out of reach for many Afghans. Afghan children and women are impacted the most by the atrocities the Taliban has unleashed in the country since taking control.

Facing decades-long conflict, Afghanistan grapples with numerous challenges, including a food shortage. Foreign governments are cutting development funding and imposing sanctions, mainly due to the Taliban’s restrictions on women.

Since the Taliban regained power in August 2021 after the U.S. exit from the country, women are not allowed to work in education with domestic and international organisations, in gyms, or public spaces.

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