A United Nations-backed mobile app tracks locust swarms in Namibia, where pests are ravaging crops and pastures.
The southern African country is grappling with what is now a third wave of African migratory locust outbreaks. The invasion began in December and farmers are also grappling with swarms of red locusts and brown locusts.
The pests damaged thousands of hectares of pastures and cultivated fields in the south of the country.
At the end of April, the Ministry of Agriculture reported that more than 700,000 hectares of pasture and more than 1,200 cultivated fields had been destroyed by locusts in 10 of the country’s 14 regions.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations said on Wednesday that the swarms threatened the country’s food security and the livelihoods of thousands of small farmers.
In response, the United Nations agency has developed the mobile app, called eLocust3m, and expects it to help fight the spread of destructive pests.
“The eLocust3m app will help us assess the current situation on the ground and alert us to the likelihood of an invasion,” said Margaret Matengu, agricultural extension manager in the Directorate of Agricultural Production, Extension and engineering services of the Ministry of Agriculture. Agriculture, water and land reform.
Matengu said times of crisis can sometimes pave the way for innovative solutions.
The United Nations agency has trained around 30 ministry officials in the use of the app.
Make a carnage
The training is part of a project also implemented in Angola, Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe, where the African migratory locust is also wreaking havoc.
The United Nations agency said the app is well suited for remote locations where monitoring would otherwise be difficult, as no internet connection is required.
The United Nations agency said the data collected from the app helps inform decision-makers about areas needing attention. They can know the extent of outbreaks to guide coordination and response efforts.
In addition to identifying areas to target with the spray, the app allows the United Nations agency to provide warnings to people who have not yet been affected by the invading swarms.
“The information obtained through the eLocust3m application is used to assess the current situation on the ground, forecast its development and warn locust-affected countries and the international donor community of probable locust invasions and plagues,” said the United Nations agency.
In 2015, the UN agency launched a program called eLocust3 in 21 countries on the front line of the fight against desert locusts.
The technology was upgraded in February of last year to provide a suite of alternatives for collecting the baseline data required for monitoring operations and forecasting. The eLocust3m is the version for mobile phones.
While Southern Africa grapples with invasions of African Migratory Locusts, Eastern Africa faces persistent Desert Locust invasions.