Farmers launch campaign against aerial locusts

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The locusts move quickly. This is why Agri SA has acted with the same speed to obtain private donations to lead the fight against the destructive brown locust skyward. To date, the organization has paid just over R500,000 from its Disaster Relief Foundation to fly a spray plane while government authorities work through red tape to mobilize helicopters.

Locusts have caused large-scale damage in the Northern Cape and parts of the Eastern and Western Cape since last year and, amid reports of massive swarms still hatching, the problems are far away to be resolved.

Nicol Jansen, president of Agri Northern Cape, recently warned that the locusts must be eradicated as soon as possible, and added that resources on the ground were stretched to the limit. Although these ground crews are cutting into the insect population, frontline farmers have called for aerial support that can help identify hatch sites and ensure larvae are sprayed before they cannot fly.

In response, Agri SA launched an urgent appeal for donations about ten days ago, which saw a total of around R300,000 come from Free State Agriculture and well-known South African companies Sanlam and Santam, among others. . Agri SA has added some of its own disaster reserves to the payments.

Andrea Campher, Head of Disaster Management at Agri SA. Photo: Supplied/Agri SA

According to Andrea Campher of Agri SA’s disaster management office, the R514,000 payments were used to spray pesticides near the worst-hit areas of Carnarvon, Kenhardt, Marydale and Prieska in the Northern Cape, and Murraydale in the Northern Cape. Western Cape.

“We are very grateful for the donations we have received. We received R100,000 from Santam and R100,000 from Sanlam, R50,000 from Free State Agriculture and ongoing donors who give small amounts. But every little gesture contributes to this initiative.

A boost to peers

“We could not wait for the state and therefore the executive committee of Free State Agriculture approved the contribution of R50,000 from our disaster fund to avert the immediate crisis,” the Free State chairman said. Agriculture, François Wilken, who mentioned that a tendering process was slowing down. government response to urgent calls for air support.

Francois Wilken, President of Free State Agriculture.  Photo: Conrad Bornman
Francois Wilken, President of Free State Agriculture. Photo: Supplied/Conrad Bornman

“It is with great gratitude and appreciation to our neighboring province for their hard work in destroying the locusts before they can have a chance to fly to [us].”

Like Agri SA, Free State Agriculture also thanked its supporters for contributing to the disaster fund that made its donation possible.

In the meantime, the Northern Cape Department of Agriculture, Environmental Affairs, Land Reform and Rural Development also issued a press release yesterday (Thursday 10th March 2022) to confirm that it had obtained two helicopters to use on the project.

“One helicopter is stationed in Upington, for western farming towns, while the second is around De Aar for eastern farming towns,” the department said.

“We are working with our stakeholders such as farmer unions and individual farmers to combat the spread.”

So far, 33 farming towns have been affected by the locust outbreak, which continues to escalate, especially in Pixley ka Seme district, according to the department. “Most areas are affected by flying insects (adult locusts) and there are also new reports of new generations of larvae.”

Authorities working alongside farmers

National Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development spokesman Reggie Ngcobo welcomed private donations and said the department has been involved since early 2021 to help the Northern Cape in the fight against the locusts.

“We have been on the ground since early 2021 fighting locusts in the Northern Cape and we have employed farm owners to do the job. We welcome input from farmer organizations and any other South African,” Ngcobo said.

Farmers in the Northern Cape and adjacent provinces should be warned, however. “Until the first frost occurs in mid-April, locusts will still be able to hatch with the current favorable weather conditions, so the crisis is still far from over,” Nicol said.

ALSO READ: How brown locusts survived South Africa’s long drought

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