Tuesday , 31 January 2023
They have been framed for several major offenses at a time in Antananarivo: unauthorized gathering, desecration of national State sovereignty, coercition to jeopardize State food security, terrorism… a sharp and colorful sense of humor proved to be the single back to back reaction to the invasion of swarms of locusts on that day. Later on, the FAO and the local ministry for agriculture jointly sustained in a common speech that this invasion of Antananarivo was no evidence of any collapse of the long term fight against locusts at all, and that control is no longer to be recovered but over a mere percent of the infected areas.

Swarms of locusts bring a wind of panic with them over the City of the Thousands

According to an old proverb, locusts are no being to sleep twice in a row at a city’s gate. Although the ancients figuratively used to mean opportunities in these words, locusts literally proved them right when entering Antananarivo city uninvited. In the morning of August 28th, 2014, their position was still located in Arivonimamo some 40 miles into the west. They kept moving westwards unopposed and reached Antananarivo in the evening. The alert has not been given until Itaosy as well as the city’s outskirts fell. “They gorged on whatever green thing growing in my garden. How appalling it was to watch so many bugs horribly hushed up over a so small surface”, explained an affected mother from the conquered territories. The damage scale does obviously not compare with the fate of suburban rice fields turned to near wastelands in a matter of minutes. “At the earliest time of the last rainy season, half of our rice harvests had been ruined by hailstones. On this account we decided to grow rice much earlier this time around, but once again, I fear that jinx has befallen us as harshly as it did before”, explained Randria, a farmer in the district of Ampasika. No less than 600 ha of fields have been grazed in and around Antananarivo city.   
The suburban rice fields’ fate actually reflects a mere part of the danger posed by the invasions of locusts. Food security to more than 13 million people happens to be in balance. “At least on the other side, having a swarm of locusts calling in to the minister of agriculture in Anosy and to the President of Republic in Ambohitsorohitra is no bad thing, for now it is clear to these leaders how poorly their job was done in spite of the large investments expected to entail but success”, grumbled Mr Jeannot, a pensioner who gave a piece of his mind as the swarm fell upon him while he was waiting at a bus stop. “This is insane! They even created a traffic jam somewhere near Avaradoha! The locusts fly unusually low and knock windshields down” commented a taxi driver. The flower merchants of Anosy definitely had a lot to do to bring their goods to safety. “These bugs actually have no fear from human retaliation, so we set a tire ablaze in order to stem the tide of the disaster as best as we could”, told Mrs. Saholy.   
The ministry for agriculture and the FAO jointly cheering and raising up  
In spite of the somehow embarrassing situation, the concerned authorities had to take an official stand and address the population. According to the minister for agriculture”, this invasion was predictable “, yet he did not find it necessary to warn the inhabitants of Antananarivo city in advance, did he? Rolland Ravatomanga rather focuses on the accordingly less dramatic implications of the invasion by stating that “Only 10% of the surface infested back in 2013 are now under strain” and that the extermination operations are already on the day to destroy the swarms which dared invade Antananarivo. The swarms of locusts took advantage from quite favorable weather conditions, namely strong wind and dry heat, which allowed them to overrun the defenses set up near Imeritsiantosika and dash straight away to the capital city. According to the FAO,” the sharp rise of temperatures in this time of the year is a significant factor to the spread of locust swarms to the capital city”. Locusts can actually fly 6 hours long a day in the early spring, thrice longer than in winter.   
The FAO, which has already invested US$ 28 millions into the fight, is not eager to acknowledge but positive prospects: “The locusts have largely been beaten back on every frontlines, and, although the infected areas range from 500 to 5000 ha, the series of search and destroy operations do not ease their tight to bring them to their ultimate demise. Swarms do remain a visible threat on Madagascar as a matter of fact… But no matter how thrilling a storm of locusts over Antananarivo might seem, it does definitely not prove enough any longer to turn the odds and tip the scale. The locusts will vanish. Their control over some 1.2 million of hectares is all they have left “. US$ 10 millions remain necessary to bring the fight operations’ second stage to a successful conclusion prior to the stage 3’s final stroke. There is still a long way to go.