Puntland farmers face huge losses as locusts put an end to planting

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(ERGO) – Locusts that have been destroying farms in northern Somalia since June have descended on parts of Puntland, causing farmers to abandon plans of planting their crops this season.

Abdullahi Ahmed Mohamed, a farmer in Durduri village in Puntland’s Lasanod district, said his land will most likely remain fallow this season for fear of the locusts.

“It will be difficult to plant if the locusts are still here. We normally plant our farms during this season but time is against us – we have only until October to finish planting. Whatever you grow after October will be for harvest in May next year,” Abdullahi said.

In his store, he has seeds for tomatoes, pumpkins, watermelons, red peppers and beans that he bought for $200.  The seeds will expire unless planted soon.

If he does not plant anything, he will forfeit the $3,000 he normally makes from selling the produce from one season’s harvest.

The chairperson of the local farmers’ association, Bashir Samatar Mumin, said locusts destroyed 20 farms including his own in Eldahir in Bosaso last week.

“The locusts are still there. Yesterday and the day before a large swarm landed in my farm. Any farm invaded by the locusts will have nothing left standing. They eat vegetables, coriander, and green peppers,” he said.

Puntland’s agriculture ministry had warned that after destroying crops and grazing land in Sanag and Bari regions in June, the locusts were heading towards Lasanod

The destructive swarms have not appeared in Badhan, Lasqoray, Bosaso, Isku-Shuban, Qandala, and Bosaso.  Summer winds hindering the locusts’ flight have mitigated the impact to some extent.

Agriculture minister Abdirashid Ali Gueleh led an assessment team to affected areas last week to survey the extent of the damage.

“The locusts are worse than the drought. They leave behind eggs which hatch later causing more problems. We urge people to used traditional methods including smoking, beating drums or tins. Of course, it needs spray planes to kill the locusts but the country has no such planes,” he said.

Last week, the ministry and Puntland’s Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management Agency (HADMA) jointly called for support to fight the locusts.

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