For five years, farmers in the Northern Cape looked to the heavens and prayed for rain as they battled the drought. What they did not bet on though, was the swarms of brown locusts who, some say, seem to have hijacked their answered prayers.
Mase Manopole, the MEC for agriculture, environmental affairs, rural development and land reform, confirms that the province experienced the highest locust outbreak in the country.
Even more swarms are expected to make their way to the interior of the province this season.
The MEC recently visited several farms near Vosberg to assess the locusts have caused on land being used by up-and-coming farmers in the province.
The areas with the largest number of swarm outbreaks include, Hopetown, Prieska, Carnarvon and Vosburg.
Manopole says, “The national department of agriculture is using ground control teams. They’ve sent an aircraft to assist with the aerial spraying and a team of experts to keep the spread under control.”
Help for affected areas
She confirms that departmental officials have inspected areas that were hit. They distributed insecticides, protective clothing and spray pumps.
Since the outbreak, the provincial government has been in talks with organised agriculture to nominate farmers in the area to be trained and appointed as locust control contractors.
An agricultural pest, the brown locust is mostly found in the semi-arid Karoo region of the Northern Cape. Migrating swarms move over large areas and in some instances may even darken the sky.
“The team has been quick to respond when landowners and members of the public report the outbreak of locust to the nearest office of the department. Officials continue to inspect reported outbreaks and distribute insecticides, protective clothing and spray pumps for outbreaks control.”
Worst hit areas
Recently, new districts in central parts of the Northern Cape have been experiencing the outbreaks.
Flying adult swarms that have recently reached Upington are believed to have originated from Prieska. The farming town is home to several unoccupied and vacant farms, conditions that enhance breeding.
The locust control contractors have been activated to control the outbreak in the new districts.
Manopole explains, “The control and monitoring of the locust outbreaks will continue, however, due to large areas of unoccupied land in the Karoo, some of the swarms grow unnoticed and continue to lay eggs which hatch in numbers.
“The locusts have impacted land which is supposed to be grazed by the livestock and the crops that could be harvested for food security.”
Manopole further calls on the farming community to notify the department when they see any potential outbreak in their respective areas.
Meanwhile the Agricultural Research Council recommends that South Africa maps out the seasonal breeding areas of the brown locusts. This will entail engaging experts in this field with a better understanding of the locust’s life cycle, breeding behaviour as well as the geography of the affected and/or the surrounding provinces in question.