The Namibian Defence Force (NDF) has deployed a plane to the Zambezi region to intensify the fight against the African migratory red locusts that have invaded the whole region and destroyed 500 hectares of grazing land.
The locust swarm was reported on 12 August 2020, notably at Muzi, Namiyundu, Ivilivizi, Lusese, Ihaha, Nakabolelwa, Masikili, Malindi, Ibbu, Ngala, Muyako, Mahundu, Machita, Kikiya, Kanono, Muketela, Linyanti, Chinchimani and Kapani areas.
NDF spokesperson Petrus Shilumbu yesterday confirmed they deployed a Y-12 aircraft on Saturday comprised of a pilot and technicians.
“As we are speaking, they are with other stakeholders including Unam and agriculture officials accessing the situation. These teams are on the ground to test the chemical if it is going to work. They are testing it at Ibbu village with a vehicle. Our pilot has not yet started flying,” Shilumbu said.
He stated that as a defence force, during peacetime, this is their secondary role to assist civil power and local authorities in domestic support operations when required, such as the locust outbreak.
In the meantime, farmers in the areas to be sprayed have been advised to move their livestock as the chemical is very dangerous.
Unam spokesperson John Haufiku said an interdisciplinary team of university academics, composed of scientists such as entomologists, biologists, vets and social scientists like lawyers, economists and a host of other specialised academics, are also in Zambezi region contributing to the fight against a locust outbreak that has been ravaging the continent from as far as Pakistan, the Horn of Africa down to Namibia. Unam is part of a national team led by the ministry of agriculture, NDF and the ministry of environment.
The aerial spray seems to be the choice of tactic to contain the migration of the swarm inland.
Unam scientists have determined a pattern of migration and feed this information to the air force for finding and spraying the pests.
“The situation is currently under control,” remarked Unam’s pro-vice-chancellor for research Anicia Peters who is leading the university’s team on the ground.
Other strategies of containing the swarm have been hotspot tracking, which is a method of determining the migratory behaviour of the locusts, and then trapping them at night while they sleep to harvest them and use them as fish and chicken fodder.
Unam has also been at the fore of engaging communities to educate them about what is happening to manage the government’s response appropriately.
According to Haufiku, Unam sees the locust outbreak as a national concern and has decided to use its scarce resources to help fight the swarm.
“Now two years in office, Unam’s vice-chancellor Professor Kenneth Matengu has been vocal about impactful research that helps solve problems in the community. This is one of the largest teams ever deployed to assist with a national challenge,” added Peters.