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close this bookCERES No. 111 (FAO Ceres, 1986, 50 p.)
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View the documentFAO in action
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FAO in action

LOCUST, HOPPER PLAGUES THREATEN AFRICAN CROPS

The welcome 1985 rains that ended prolonged drought for many regions of Africa have also produced fertile breeding grounds for a variety of grasshoppers and migratory locusts that are now menacing millions of hectares of cropland in central, eastern, southern, and western Africa. Their simultaneous cyclical upsurge comes at a time when regional organizations established to control such pests have been faced with critical shortages of funds. In the western Sahelian zone, serious infestations of Senegalese grasshoppers (Oedaleus senegalensis) first observed last autumn are now considered a serious threat to young millet and sorghum seedlings of the current crop. Western Mali is the most seriously affected area followed by Guinea-Bissau, but Burkina Faso, Chad, the Gambia, Mauritania, the Niger, Senegal and possibly Cape Verde are also threatened, FAO Director-General Edouard Saouma has called for a $4 million, six month pan-Sahelian control campaign to be carried out in cooperation with national plant protection services. Meanwhile FAO technical divisions are preparing action plans to combat infestations of four species of migratory locusts threatening crops through wide areas of central, eastern, and southern Africa. Central and southern Africa are threatened by infestations of the red locust (Nomadacris septemfasciata) in Tanzania, Zambia, Malawi, and Mozambique. Despite aerial spraying since the first warnings, swarms have escaped from local regions and, for the first time in more than half a century, have been reported in Kenya. In the central and eastern plains of Sudan, the African Migratory locust (Locusta migratoria) reproduced widely during the rainy season and caused considerable damage to sorghum and sugar cane crops despite vast air and surface control operations. Some swarms subsequently abandoned their traditional reproduction zones, reaching the coast of the Red Sea, northern Ethiopia, northern Uganda, and northwest Kenya. In South Africa, an estimated 300 000 km2 in the Karroo area of Cape province is threatened with the worst upsurge of the brown locust (Locustana pardalina) in 20 years. Moving north, swarms of locusts reached Botswana by the end of February. Anti-locust operations there are under way, but an FAO evaluation mission has reported that because of the vastness of the area to be treated and the lack of modern spraying equipment and materials, the infestation will probably persist for several years. Meanwhile, the desert locust (Schistocerca gregaria), which had virtually disappeared after the drought of 1982-84, reappeared after the return of the rains last year, first in Mauritania, later and more significantly in Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Egypt. Affected countries lack funds to combat these infestations on their own. Regional organizations that had been able to handle preventive operations with means at their disposal during periods of remission now find themselves hard pressed. The International Red Locust Control Organization for Central and Southern Africa spent its entire 1986 budget during the first three months of this year and its stocks of pesticides are completely exhausted. The International African Migratory Locust Organization was recently dissolved.

LOWERED TRADE BOOSTS WORLD CEREAL STOCKS

The exceptional cereal harvests of 1985, now estimated at a global total of 1 837 million metric tons, combined with only modest growth in cereal utilization during the past year, will result in a record carryover of cereal stocks at the end of the 1985-86 season, according to FAO's most recent Food Outlook report. The estimated carryover of 377 million tons is 20 per cent higher than that of the previous year. Coarse grains account for most of the increase, although there is also a slight rise in wheat stocks. Rice stocks are expected to fall. Cereal stocks in the United States account for 44 per cent of all carryover stocks. The report also forecasts that aggregate world trade in cereals in the current season will decline by 32 million tons to 187 million tons, about 14 per cent less than the previous year. More than two-thirds of this reduction reflects a 40 per cent reduction in cereal imports by the Soviet Union. Imports by developing countries are also expected to decline by about 10 million tons. Cereal exports from the United States fell sharply, accounting for about three quarters of the reduction in trade. Among major exporters, only Canada increased sales. In its first forecast for world wheat and coarse grain production for 1986, based on winter plantings only, Food Outlook estimated output at 1 345 million tons, down slightly from the record of 1 376 million tons in 1985.

SRI LANKA LAUNCHES LAND USE PROJECT

Since a large part of the island's land resources remains unutilized, under-utilized, or poorly utilized, the need for a comprehensive land use planning capability has been recognized as a priority task for Sri Lanka. A four-year FAO/UNDP project due for completion next year is involved with the establishment of a Land Use Policy Planning Division in the Ministry of Lands and Land Development and with assisting with the coordination of a national land-use planning capability within different ministries of the Government. The project has set up the first Sri Lankan national land information system, which stores and analyzes landrelated data by means of a microcomputer. Output from the system being provided now on demand includes land suitability maps, descriptions of land of any selected area, the present use made of each area of land, areas open for development, and instructions to assist users of the system. A land-use planning handbook for Sri Lanka has been written and distributed. It takes the non-specialist in the technical support wings of the district administration through all stages of making a land use plan, and provides an introductory chapter for the land administrators who need to understand how land use planning can help them in their management of the land of Sri Lanka.

ZAIRE DECENTRALIZES AGRICULTURAL STATISTICS

Zaire has launched a major effort to improve agricultural statistical information essential to any development activities in the rural sector, by establishing a permanent system for the collection of agricultural statistics. The FAO/UNDP project agreement was signed on 13 February 1985. The Executive Council has allocated $2 million to finance the scheme, which is supported by an FAO/UNDP project valued at $1.8 million. The intention is to establish regional bureaus of agricultural statistics with responsibility for the collections, analysis, and dissemination of regional agricultural statistics. Each regional bureau will establish at community and zone level a network for permanent observation comprised of agricultural agents (surveyors and supervisors) selected for their professional capacity, trained in methods of collection and supplied with survey material and the necessary transport. These agents will undertake a series of surveys in the villages, rural households, and farm holdings according to national and regional needs for statistical information. Because of its importance to the agricultural sector, both for its level of production and its role as supplier of staple foods to Kinshasa, the region of Bandundu has been chosen as a pilot region. It also has a wide range of ecological zones and population densities as well as numerous development projects. Its diversity should therefore allow for survey techniques to be adapted to different situations encountered as the regional bureaus are established on a national basis. From July 1985, surveyors and controllers for the Bandundu region have been selected and trained in a week-long course at various centres. Between August 1985 and January 1986, a survey was carried out on a sample of one quarter of the villages in the region. A further training seminar was held in February 1986 to make a quick analysis of the village survey, to select a sample for the survey on farm holdings, and to train personnel for this survey. A third phase of the work is scheduled to begin in September with the setting up of a survey on rural household consumption. Other regional bureaus will be created at the rate of two every six months and the whole national system is expected to be operational by the end of 1987.