Climate change and global warming used to be a very far-fetched phenomenon. This is no longer the case since poor communities and small-scale producers are the hardest hit by the impacts of this climate change. This is despite them being the least contributors. The impacts of climate change include drought, floods, outbreak of pests and diseases, just to mention a few.
In early May, some areas in the Eastern Cape was attacked by swarms of brown locusts. The areas affected so far include Alice, Burnshill, Fort Cox, KwaMathole and some parts of Sundays River Valley Municipality. These pests are so voracious and destructive to both crops and pastures. When they get into a field, they leave literally nothing and the farmer has to start all over again. They normally do this in the early morning and just one swarm of these locusts can finish a hectare of vegetation in about 30 minutes which shows just how dangerous these pests are.
How best to control the brown locusts
It is not very easy to control the brown locusts as they come in swarms and there is no pre-warning. However, there are some methods that farmers can employ to avoid losses. The following techniques can be used to control such disasters:
- Use of shade net tunnels
- Use of plastic tunnels
- Baiting: Some chemical baits may be used at a small-scale. These baits are more environmental friendly as they simply attract the locusts to a certain point which is sticky and the locusts get stuck to the sticky wall.
- Broadcasting moistened bran bait by hand in a ±1m wide barrier around the roost in the early morning, has proved a most effective manner of baiting
- Field hygiene: Keeping our fields free of weeds, including the peripheries, assist to some extent in controlling the crawling locusts
- Aerial sprays: This can be done by the Department of Rural Development and Agrarian Reform (DRDAR). Producers are advised to report any locust swarms in their areas to their local extension officers for quick control.
There are mixed feelings about the idea of aerial spraying for the locusts, especially in Middledrift. Some members of the community are fearful what the consequences of aerial spraying may be for their own health and the general environmental health. However, for some, spraying the locusts is the only viable option in the meantime, until a proper environmentally friendly control method has been developed.