Afghan locust outbreak threatens food security

Category: Science/Environment


Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. pest / pɛst / (n.) – an insect or small animal that destroys plants, crops, etc.

    Farmers are having problems with pests destroying their crops.

  2. equate / ɪˈkweɪt / (v.) – to consider something to be equal to or the same as something else

    The damage caused by the typhoon equates to about $1 trillion.

  3. prone / proʊn / (adj.) – likely to experience or suffer from something bad or harmful, such as a disease, calamity, injury, etc.

    This part of the road is prone to accidents.

  4. resort to (something) / rɪˈzɔrt tu / (phrasal v.) – to do or use something to solve a problem, especially when there is no other choice

    Some people resort to violence to get what they want.

  5. tarpaulin / tɑrˈpɔ lɪn / (n.) – a large and heavy piece of plastic or cloth that’s used to cover something, especially from getting wet

    You can use a tarpaulin to make a tent.


Read the text below.

A large-scale locust outbreak across eight provinces in north and northeast Afghanistan is posing an enormous threat to the country’s food security, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has warned.

The Dociostaurus maroccanus, commonly known as the Moroccan locust, is ranked among the most economically damaging plant pests anywhere in the world.

A full outbreak this year could result in crop losses ranging from 700 000 to 1.2 million metric tons of wheat, up to a quarter of the total annual harvest, according to FAO.

This equates to between $280 million and $480 million of losses.

In Baghlan province, farmers like Najibullah have seen their crops ravaged by locusts.

“The Moroccan locust has destroyed 300 jeribs (60 hectares) of my wheat field and 31000 jeribs (6200 hectares) of pastureland in this area, where ten villages are located,” he said.

Afghanistan’s north and northeast regions are prone to Moroccan locust outbreaks.

Drought, over-grazing, very limited locust control and the right amount of rainfall in March and April created the ideal environment for locusts to hatch and swarm.

If the Moroccan locust population is left untreated, it could increase its number by 100-fold in the next year, creating even bigger problems for agriculture and food security in Afghanistan and its neighbors.

The last two big outbreaks in Afghanistan, 20 and 40 years ago, caused an estimated loss of eight and 25% of the total annual wheat production.

Afghanistan used to have a very strong locust control system in place.

But this has been heavily eroded in the last two years.

With chemical supplies low across the country, farmers resorted to using traditional mechanical control methods that consist of sweeping locust hoppers onto tarpaulins and then burying them into trenches to reduce outbreak impact.

A cash-for-work program run by the FAO encourages local residents to use these traditional practices to try and control locust outbreaks.

This article was provided by The Associated Press.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

  • What do you think is the worst thing that can happen if the locust outbreak in Afghanistan is not immediately put under control? Discuss.
  • A cash-for-work program run by the FAO encourages local residents to help control the locust outbreaks. In your opinion, how important is the involvement of the community in controlling outbreaks? Discuss.

Discussion B

  • Is your country prone to something, such as a disease, calamity, etc.? Why do you think so? What is the government doing about it? Discuss.
  • Aside from pest outbreaks, what do you think are the other possible threats to food security (ex. booming population, loss of farmlands due to urbanization)? Are there ways to prevent these threats? Discuss.