“There is no cause for alarm. Gambia is safe and we have put mechanism in place for any imminent locust invasion in The Gambia,” says Ebrima Sisawo, the permanent secretary at the Ministry of Agriculture. However, he added that lack of trained personnel to deal with any imminent locusts’ invasion is a concern.
Mr. Sisawo’s comments came following the outbreak of locusts in East Africa sometime in April 2020.
In an interview with The Point, he said due to the devastating effect of locusts, the Ministry of Agriculture formed an Emergency Desert Locust Preparedness Committee headed by Sheikh Tijan Sosseh, the former AELP, GEAPP and WAAPP coordinator, who had successfully coordinated three projects dealing with locusts. “His name is a household in this country when it’s comes to project implementation.”
PS also stated that after the formation of this committee, the Ministry of Agriculture conducted a rapid capacity assessment to determine the country’s state of preparedness to management of locust infestations, with the key findings indicating a very weak capacity.
“Key among the weaknesses is lack of trained and experienced locusts control personnel in the field,” he revealed.
He thus called for a need for training and retraining of personnel on Desert Locust Control and Management.
“It could be recalled that in the month of April 2020, Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) announced and declared a locust plaque in East Africa which had ravaged millions of hectares of crops and pastures, leaving about 25 million people food and nutrition insecure, and a resulting high mortality in livestock and destruction to the economies of the affected countries such as Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and several Eastern African countries.
“As a result of the situation of the plaque, forecasts is such that FAO raised an alert warning West African countries including The Gambia with history of locust invasions to urgently step up their emergency response preparedness in anticipation of any imminent invasion during the cropping seasons, as trained personnel are key to any successful anticipated locust control or other pests management interventions.”
“This is why the Ministry of Agriculture, expressed the importance of prioritising training as fore-most in the plan, and highly solicits the immediate support of Food and Agriculture Organisation especially the Gambia Office to fund the implementation of not only this proposal but the National Emergency Locust and Other Pests Response Plan (NELOPRP).
The proposed training is targeting Plant Protection Personnel, extension workers, quest team, military, media personnel and farmers. The training will be conducted in stages for various targets as listed.”
“The first stage will be training of trainers to be followed by a step down training of farmer brigades, extension workers, military and other stakeholders such as the media personnel, sensitisation of general public, farmers, pesticide dealers and civil society organisations.”