(ERGO) – Farmers in central Somalia are using mosquito netting in an inventive way of protecting their crops from voracious locusts that have persisted in causing damage despite ongoing spraying measures.
Abdiqadir Yusuf Diriye, who owns a two-hectare farm in Salaam, 10 km north of Galkayo in Mudug region, grows various fruit trees including lemons, mangoes, papayas, as well as watermelons, beans, and vegetables.
“Most of my lemon trees that survived are those under the nets,” he told Radio Ergo. “The locusts are everywhere. The ones moving on the ground reached the crops under the net covers, but the nets were effective in preventing attacks from the flying locusts.”
Abdulqadir, with a family of 12 to support, lost everything he planted with investments worth $800 in July and August. Despite the spraying efforts by the Puntland environment ministry, the locusts kept coming back.
Using mosquito nets carefully placed to avoid hampering plant growth, he planted again in October. He trusts that a combination of the spraying measures, along with the farmers’ own ingenuity, will reap some reward.
“They sprayed the farms and all the land as far as Tarro-caddood near Ba’adwayn up to Jehdin. There were spray planes and vehicles. At first most of the locusts were flying in the fields outside the farms. They have reduced, but they are still invading the farms. There is a vast area of land where the locusts are scattered,” he said.
When the locusts first hit Salaam in July, the 150 farmers in the community tried all known methods including beating metal pans, using smoke, and blowing vehicle horns to ward off the locusts. But nothing worked.
Halimo Jama Ahmed, who owns a one-hectare farm on the outskirts of Galkayo, lost a substantial part of the vegetables, maize, beans, and melons she had been growing.
Her family, with six children, depends on the farm for a living. She decided to cover the rest of the crops with mosquito netting, hoping at least to salvage the $650 capital she invested, if not to make a profit.
“It’s as if you’re drowning in water and then you grab onto a floating object to save yourself!” she said.
“This idea was a response to the destruction caused by the locusts, so people with anything left covered their crops with nets. These insects will not go away in just a couple of days. They’ve caused me huge damage that I did not anticipate.”
Puntland’s environment ministry, in collaboration with the UN Food and Agriculture (FAO) pest management unit, is leading locust spraying efforts in the region. Mohamed Nur Nageeye, head of the ministry’s agriculture protection unit, said they were using a combination of ground and aerial spraying.
“There is no report on (the effectiveness of) this yet, but at least we have spread across 500 hectares of land, including farmland and rangeland, which were infested by locusts and where they had attacked the farms. The work is still ongoing,” he said.
He said their interviews with farmers during the spraying operations indicated that 90 per cent of the crops planted this time had survived so far.