Melodine Jeptoo will never forget the first time she saw an elobster swarms.
The bugs darkened the sky and hit her like hail.
“When they fly, they hit you really hard,” said Jeptoo, who lives in Kenya and works with PlantVillage, a non-profit group that uses technology to help farmers adapt to climate change.
An application has been adapted to use data from aerial sprayers. A pilot follows a swarm over Meru, Kenya. (Yasuyoshi Chiba / Agence France-Presse – Getty Images)
In 2020, billions of insects descended on East African countries that had not seen locusts for decades, fueled by unusual weather related to climate change.
Nineteen million peasants and herders in Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia saw their livelihoods severely affected.
But the swarms and their descendants could have done much more damage.
While the weather has helped slow insect reproduction, the success has been mainly due to a anti lobster operation driven by technology that was hastily put together in the months after the insects arrived, said Keith Cressman, senior locust forecasting officer at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).
The desert locusts they typically spend their time living alone in the deserts of North Africa, Southwest Asia, and the Middle East.
But when the rains come, they turn from dull brown to fiery yellow and form clumps of more than 6 million insects per square kilometer.
Such a swarm can consume the equivalent amount of food that more than 13 thousand people.
With the swarms suddenly covering a large part of Kenya, officials set out to create a locust-fighting operation.
Collecting data on them was the first step.
Cressman contacted David Hughes, an entomologist at Pennsylvania State University, who had created a similar mobile tool to track a crop pest, fall armyworm, through PlantVillage, which he founded.
Hughes and his team completed a new app, eLocust3m, in a month.
The app presents photos of lobsters at different stages of their life cycles, helping users diagnose what they see in the field.
The GPS coordinates are recorded automatically.
Garmin International he also helped with another program that worked on satellite broadcast devices.
In the last year, more than 240 thousand lobster records have arrived from East Africa.
Next, countries had to act on them.
When Batian Craig, director of 51 Degrees, a company focused on protecting wildlife, saw Cressman quoted in a lobster story, realized that could help.
Craig and his colleagues, who are based in central Kenya, conduct routine aerial surveys against poaching that could be reused to search for and destroy locust swarms.
What’s more, 51 Degrees uses a free program called EarthRanger that gathers and analyzes geographic data.
Vulcan, A Seattle-based philanthropic company that created EarthRanger, customized a version that integrated data from eLocust and computer loggers from aerial pesticide sprayers.
By June 2020, the locusts were prevented from spreading to the Sahel region of Africa and west to Senegal.
The offspring of the 2020 swarms continue to cause damage in East Africa.
But now, the countries are in better conditions to fight them —Equipped with the new technology, 28 aircraft, and thousands of trained government locust trackers.
Since February 2020, FAO estimates that the effort in East Africa has prevented the loss of agricultural products worth $ 1.5 billion and the livelihoods of 34 million people.
© 2021 The New York Times
#Squash #Locust #Plague #Technology