Too little, too late

"IT IS A sad reflection on our society that we shall probably have to wait for another series of massive locust plagues before politicians and financiers will take a serious long-term look at the problem," wrote Professor Chapman, a renowned expert on locust control in the 1970s. The truth of his words was borne out in the 1980s.

According to the Panos dossier and rightly so, lack of preparedness, low priority to research and training in the past, inadequate data collection, poor coordination and missed opportunities to control in the early stages has contributed to millions of dollars being spent on emergency rather than long-term measures.

The Panos dossier is an excellent, relevant source of information on locusts, and the challenges and controversies in the campaigns being waged against them. It presents a variety of perspectives and provides an overview of current practices, with interviews and case studies from Sahelian journalists and farmers. The most striking feature of the dossier is its readability. Even the non-specialist can sift through the technicalities to enjoy a greater understanding of the problem.

Ample funds
Over the years, millions of dollars have been spent in fighting locusts in the Sahel in Africa. Much of the money was made available in the form of periodic emergency aid, leaving little behind in terms of acquired local skills and infrastructure. The flow of funds all too often echoed the irregular progress of the plagues.

The frustration of those who argue the costs of control should be approached as a sort of insurance premium, with the emphasis on regularity and reliability of funding, was highlighted in 1988 when the largest desert locust plague since the 1950s swept across the Sahel. In this context, the Panos dossier is expected to stimulate serious discussion of the issues involved.