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Grasshopper swarms in East Africa are destroying crops and pasture in the countries of Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda. The pestilence is threatening their population with food shortage, hunger and malnutrition.

The desert locusts, billions of them in number, are not only affecting the East African region. The swarms have spread to the Arabian and Southwest Asian regions affecting Bahrain, India, Oman, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Yemen.

Conventional aerial spraying of insecticides can help reduce the insects. But the sheer number of locusts, with reinforcements reportedly coming in soon from maturing grasshoppers, makes spraying more expensive as more chemicals and plane fuel are needed.

Pakistani farming families drive the pests away by banging metal basins, but the method is tiring and doesn’t kill the grasshoppers.

A better solution may be the use of chickens and ducks. Chinese farmers actually use domesticated fowl for locust control because the method doesn’t harm the environment while it feeds the birds. Chickens and ducks only have to be trained in formation and movement using whistles for a few months.

In May 2000, 100,000 ducks were reportedly used to battle locusts infesting more than 404,000 hectares of grasslands in Xinjiang province. With each duck eating more than 100 locusts without rest, the plague was overcome in about four months.

Locust-infested countries can try the technique by importing the trained chickens and ducks from China. But one thing to consider is the logistics of moving millions of chickens to East Africa. For sure, that locust solution won’t be a low-cost undertaking

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