By Cole Hill (staff@latinospost.com) | First Posted: Mar 28, 2013 03:03 PM EDT
Tags Locust

A plague of locusts similarly swarmed Egypt earlier this year. (Photo : Reuters)

Madagascar is under attack: a plague of locusts has swarmed roughly half of the island country. The infestation is so pervasive and dangerous, more than $22 million is needed to fight back the pests, according to the United Nations' Food & Agriculture Organization.

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The future of Madagascar's food supply depends on the funding, the FAO said. The locusts could decimate the nation's next cropping seasons, and lead to mass food scarcity for over half the island, according to Business Week.

"The plague now threatens 60 percent of the country's rice production, a staple crop in Madagascar, where 80 percent of the population lives on less than $1 per day. The locust swarms are also consuming green vegetation that might normally serve as pasture for livestock," said the UN in a statement.

The threat of locusts to the country's food supply is especially troublesome considering how widespread famine already is in Madagascar. The FAO points out that over half of Madagascar's citizens struggle daily with food insecurity, and notes that in the nation's lowest-income regions in the south, which is where the swarms began, roughly 70 percent of those residents are "food insecure."

If nothing is done to stop the insects, the FAO predicts that about two-thirds of the country will be consumed by locusts by September 2013. The FAO says that a three-year plan is required to defend the country from the plague, which would demand an additional $19 million.

The FAO's plan to fight the swarms - which each contain billions of locusts - would use "large-scale aerial operations" that would spray 1.5 million hectares in 2013-14, cover about 500,000 hectares in the next year, and then 150,000 in the final spraying.

Locusts are so devastating to food supplies that a single swarm can consume as much as 100,000 metric tons of green vegetation, crops included, in just one day, according data obtained by the FAO.

"We know from experience that this plague will require three years of anti-locust campaigns. We need funds now to procure supplies and to timely set-up the aerial survey and control operations," said Annie Monard, FAO Senior Officer and Coordinator in a statement from the organization.

"Failure to respond now will lead to massive food aid requirements later on," added Dominique Burgeon, Director of the FAO Emergency and Rehabilitation Division.

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