Algeria 2, June 18, 2017

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NEW TECHNOLOGY TO ANTICIPATE LOCUST RISKS

A new technology to use satellite information to anticipate conditions for desert locust swarms has been developed by scientists from the European Space Agency (ESA) and desert locust experts The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), said on its website.

According to the UN agency, this innovative technique, the result of collaboration between its specialist experts and ESA on rapid alerts, will make it possible to know the risks of a locust resurgence one or two months in advance.

Information collected by satellites, such as the ESA Earth Moisture and Soil Assessment Mission (SMOS) mission, is used to monitor conditions that may lead to locust grouping, such as Soil moisture or green vegetation.

'For years now, we have been anticipating resurgences in FAO by working closely with countries most exposed to this phenomenon with a view to implementing control measures.

By combining our expertise with the capabilities of the ESA satellite, we can anticipate more quickly and accurately locust outbreaks, 'said Keith Cressman, senior FAO locust forecasting officer.

According to the same official, longer warning periods give countries more time to act quickly, to quickly control a potential resurgence and to avoid major food losses.

ESA Director of ESA Earth Observation Programs in Italy, Josef Aschbacher, said that routine satellite observations, coupled with policies, that promote open access And open to data, are excellent prerequisites for closer collaboration with international partners such as FAO and other UN organizations.

In this sense, the same official indicated that ESA is fully supportive of the research and development activities of these organizations, as they will help to find new ways of using the data obtained by observing satellites.

As a reminder, locust forecasts obtained from satellite information were based in the past on green vegetation, which meant that the conditions favoring the emergence of locust swarms were already present and therefore a warning period Of just one month.

'We now have the opportunity to know the risks of a locust outbreak one or two months in advance, which helps us to better put in place preventive controls,' said Ahmed Salem Benahi, Mauritanian Center for Locust Control.

Locusts, a major threat to food security According
to FAO data, desert locusts are locusts capable of forming large swarms, which pose a significant threat to agricultural production, livelihoods and food security.

They are found mostly in the Sahara, across the Arabian peninsula and in India. One square kilometer of swarms, says FAO, contains nearly 40 million locusts.

They can eat the same amount of food as 35,000 people in a single day. In West Africa, during the 2003-2005 invasion, more than 8 million people were affected, many cereal crops were ravaged, and up to 90% of pulses and pastures destroyed. It took nearly $ 600 million and 13 million liters of pesticides to control the situation.

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