Like dark and ominous clouds, swarms of devastating brown locusts have sparked increasing worry among farmers and locals in various parts of the Eastern and Northern Cape.
What’s more is that the outbreak, which has already caused much destruction on farms, have motorists concerned for road safety too. Millions of locusts have been seen flying into the windscreens of cars driving in areas such as Noupoort, Middelburg and Colesberg.
According to Janine Byleveld, operations officer for economics, commerce and natural resources at Agri SA Northern Cape, they foresee that the locusts will be around for a while. “We are expecting the locusts to be around until the winter season, because as long as there is rain, there will always be locust outbreaks.
“The locust nests are in the Northern Cape. They develop here and start to spread to other provinces such as the Free state,” she explains.
All hands on deck
Byleveld points out that in the southeastern parts of the province heavy control of locusts is being done. Pest-fighting teams are busy in areas such as Pofadder, Pella, Onseepkans, Noenieput and Askham.
Swarms have also been spotted in the interior parts of the province, towards Upington, Kakamas, Keimoes and Sutherland.
“The situation is manageable at the moment,” she tells Food For Mzansi. “The locusts are only controlled at night. That is why no one will specifically see people controlling them during the day. The pesticides are most effective at night, which is why we have to wait for the sun to set.”
The provincial government is driving the control campaign and providing equipment, pesticides and training. Farmers and workers have contracts to control the locusts in their areas.
According to the department of agriculture, environmental affairs, land reform and rural development in the province, flying locusts have crossed borders from Namibia into the province.
“Even though the department has managed to control the swarm, with the recent rains we received, there is a high possibility that we can receive a huge outbreak as we already started receiving new generations in Springbok, Askham, Bladgrond and Sutherland,” says MEC Mase Manopole.
Meanwhile, videos and pictures have been shared on social media platforms, capturing the severity of what has been described as an uncontrollable influx of thick locust swarms.
Moving into towns
Eastern Cape farmer Jannie Louw, who lost 3 000 hectares of grazing land on his farm to thick locust swarms, tells Food For Mzansi that the locusts have since migrated into other areas.
“The locusts caused great damage on my farm. My grass is short. We sprayed poison endlessly. But they are now moving around my farm into other areas such as Middelburg and Graaff-Reinet. Some larger swarms are also moving towards Steynsburg.”
He describes how the insects have cleaned out everything in front of them after they had developed wings. He is relieved that locusts did not make a return visit to his farm. “Yesterday there was a massive swarm in front of our home in town, though”
According to Louw, swarms have also started moving into towns and communities, forcing locals to look for temporary alternative accommodation.
“Luckily the locusts do not stay long in an area. They fly during the day when it is hot. They come through the villages and you see them during the day but then they move to open pieces of land where they lie down.
“The guys who spray the poison try very hard. I actually feel sorry for them because all they do is spray.”
Free State on guard
In the Free State, a minor outbreak was reported in the Phillipolis district. According to Dr Jack Armour, Free State Agriculture (FSA) operational manager, they are closely monitoring the situation.
“There hasn’t been any [major] outbreaks in the province at the moment. However, we are worried about the outbreak currently taking place in the Northern Cape in areas such as Colesberg. We are worried that if the locusts could cross the Orange River, we will be affected.”
Armour says that a meeting has been scheduled between stakeholders and the Free State department of agriculture for tomorrow (Friday, 7 January 2022) to discuss the situation.
MEC Manopole has in the meantime called on members of the public, especially those who are driving, to be cautious when driving through a locust swarm, as this can obstruct their ability to see.
Farm owners are also encouraged to allow our controllers access to their farms.
“I would like to thank our officials, controllers and our farmers, as well as various stakeholders, for their continued support to curb the spread.
“Without their contribution, our food security would be at risk. Most importantly, I would also like to thank our communities who continue to alert us of new outbreaks that are taking place in their respective areas. Together we will be able to defeat the scourge.”
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