Madagascar battles worst locust plague in 60 years

6 May 2013

SCRIPT

For three quarters of an hour, a giant swarm of locusts, about 15 kilometres long, crosses Madagascar's national route seven.

This road is normally popular with tourists, who come for the breathtaking views.

But today they're observing a natural disaster -- a plague of locusts which has already destroyed half of the island's crops.

SOUNDBITE 1: Tsitohaina Andriamaroahina (man), Ministry of Agriculture (French, 16 sec):

"They can create a lot of damage, they eat the pastures, and then also the rice and the corn which is about to be harvested."

« ça peut créer énormément de dégâts, ils consomment les pâturages des éleveurs et ensuite, il y a également toutes les rizières et aussi tout le maïs qui est en période de récolte actuellement ».

According to experts, there are currently a hundred swarms across Madagascar, made up of about 500 billion locusts.

And they get through around 100 thousand tonnes of vegetation every single day.

SOUNDBITE 2: Zefa Vilimana (man), farmer (Malagache, 20 sec) "There's already little rice, not many people have more than ten hectares of crops, so after the locusts, there's nothing left for our women and children to eat. The cattle have nothing left to eat either, so we're left with nothing once the crickets have been here."

« Déjà il y a peu de riz, il y a peu de gens qui ont plus de 10 ha de cultures, donc après le passage des criquets il n’y a plus rien à manger pour les femmes et les enfants. Les bétails n’ont plus rien à manger non plus, donc on n’a plus rien jusqu’à maintenant depuis que les criquets sont là »

Madagascar was hit by Cyclone Huruna in February, and the floods created a perfect breeding ground for locusts.

Authorities tried to kill them -- but the swarms were simply too big.

SOUNDBITE 3: Tsitohaina Andriamaroahina (man), Ministry of Agriculture (French, 18 sec) "The measures taken weren't enough, and so we had a locust invasion. In one day, we counted five swarms over a distance of 20 kilometres. It's extremely serious, all of the Malagasy population is affected."

« Les mesures prises ne sont pas tellement suffisantes donc du coup nous sommes dans une invasion acridienne. En une journée, on a compté 5 essaims sur un trajet de 20 kms, donc c’est vraiment extrêmement grave ça, c’est toute la population malgache maintenant qui est concernée »

Madagascar is still waiting for over 40 million dollars in aid to finance an emergency plan over three years.

But donors haven't yet given the green light.

SOUNDBITE 4: Rakotovao Hasibelo (man), National Anti-Locust Centre (Malagache, 19 sec) "The big problem here is that we don't have money, so we can't buy pesticides and we can't buy enough fuel all at once. The field officers, the managers can't do their work, and while we're not working, the farmers suffer and the locusts multiply."

« Le gros problème qu’on a ici, c’est le manque d’argent, on ne peut pas acheter de pesticide, on ne peut pas acheter de carburant du coup, les agents sur le terrain, les chefs de postes ne peuvent pas effectuer leur travail, du coup nous ne travaillons pas, les agriculteurs souffrent et les criquets se multiplient »

The locusts have already destroyed fifty percent of the country's rice fields -- the staple food for Malagasy people.

Authorities are calling for aid to be released quickly-- before half of its population goes hungry.

------------------------

SHOTLIST

SAKARAHA, MADAGASCAR, APRIL 2013, SOURCE: AFPTV

- VAR swarm of locusts flying across road, tourists looking on

- SOUNDBITE 1: Tsitohaina Andriamaroahina (man), Ministry of Agriculture

ANDIORANO, MADAGASCAR, APRIL 2013, SOURCE: AFPTV

- VAR farmer walking through crops, showing sugar cane leaves

- SOUNDBITE 2: Zefa Vilimana (man), farmer

AMPANDRABE, MADAGASCAR, APRIL 2013, SOURCE: AFPTV

- VAR Andriamaroahina travelling in vehicle

- VAR Andriamaroahina with colleagues in field

- SOUNDBITE 3: Tsitohaina Andriamaroahina (man), Ministry of Agriculture

SAKARAHA, MADAGASCAR, APRIL 2013, SOURCE: AFPTV

- VAR Hasibelo in office

- SOUNDBITE 4: Rakotovao Hasibelo (man), National Anti-Locust Centre

- VAR swarm of locusts flying across road

- Dead locust on road

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