Locusts have a notorious history of famines and mass migration of population. These small insects of order Orthoptera have more than eighty species. A single swarm can travel a distance of up to 150 km per day and consume 200 tons per day of food. Their food includes crop and vegetation. Their attack and devastation they cause had been perfectly explained in “A mild attack of locusts” by Doris Lessing in 1955. They destroy vegetation of an area within no time.
There are various strategies to control the locusts from mechanical ways (use of catching equipment, killing, ditching and crushing) to application of chemicals (use of organo-chloride deldrin). The problem with using these methods in underdeveloped countries is lack of proper equipment as well as expertise. The negative impact of chemicals on environment can’t be ignored; the reason why organo-chloride deldrin is banned now. World is moving towards greener ways nowadays like control of locusts through plant extracts. These plant extracts don’t kill the locusts but they leave fields sprayed with extracts.
A combination of favorable weather, vegetation and soil conditions for the reproduction of locusts resulted in an outbreak affecting east Africa to Pakistan and then India. Recent invasion of locusts in Pakistan posed serious threat along with COVID-19 outbreak. And sadly, Pakistan has no proactive approach. In such circumstances, a reactive approach can be adapted to minimize the expected loss.
PM Imran Khan recently declared financial incentives for collecting and selling locusts to poultry farms. This proposal is entirely scientific because locusts produce 5% more protein per unit of fodder than cattle. Commercial farming of locusts is appreciated globally. Not only proteins but they are rich in other vitamins, fatty acids and minerals. Use of locusts as feed for poultry is the sustainable biological method to control the outbreak. Edible insects are viewed as new sustainable sources for livestock feed because of nutritional balance, high food conversion rate and environmental benefits. Insect rearing is not new to the world; Thailand has a history of 500 years of insect consumption with the largest cricket rearing sector in the world. Kenya hosts international research center where the research is on the rearing of 20 different edible insect species including locusts.
To establish insects as part of a sustainable food environment, collectors, farmers or small entrepreneurs need to be transformed into mini-livestock farmers. Sarah Nischalke with her fellow researchers presented four multidimensional challenges to achieve this goal. These include economic, ecological, sociocultural and government support. In a country like Pakistan with no solution in hand, biological method of controlling locust outbreak is the most suitable strategy. Pakistan is an agricultural country and need of the time is a collaborative approach to deal with this outbreak to save economy. An approach is needed where all the stakeholders participate and formulate a research based policy. Pakistan and all other affected countries need to have a proactive approach to deal with such outbreaks in future.
Nutritional and safety evaluation of locust (Caelifera ) powder as a novel food material
Control Cum Exploitation of Locusts Attack to Enhance Productivity
How to turn collectors of edible insects into mini-livestock farmers: Multidimensional sustainability challenges to a thriving industry
by: Ayesha Mushtaq