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  • Writer's picturePhillip Radcliffe

The Desert Disaster

By Yoshikuni Sato

(Japanese translation coming soon.)

The Desert Locust

An insect named “Desert Locust” is distributed through the range of West Africa to West India. Normally, they live solitary lives, but they become a large group by suddenly increasing in population. This creates an outbreak and causes a locust plague which damages the crops.

The mechanism of the outbreak is unknown. On the other hand, it is said that it is connected to the tropical storm called cyclone which occurs in Indian Ocean. Cyclones are similar to typhoons and bring a large amount of rain. They have come to increase in frequency more recently because of global warming.

It is said that desert locusts travel by taking advantage of wind and they can travel more than 100 kilometers a day. Furthermore, they number almost 80 million per square kilometer and they eat the same amount as 35,000 humans.

Locust Plague

The swarm of desert locusts has occurred in every country in East Africa and has reached India through Arabia peninsula, magnifying the range of the swarm’s activities. In fact, outbreaks like this have happened in the past in the same area.

One solution is to use insecticide. It is possible to apply insecticide early if there is enough money for labor and equipment. This year, however, there is no money, but an even bigger problem is the lack of labor and equipment due to the novel coronavirus.

Some countries have already suffered severe damage to crops and the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) is warning that there will be a shortage of food for more than 2,5 million people only in East Africa and has declared a state of emergency.


It is very important for us to stop global warming because locust plagues are intensifying. Locusts are poikilotherms and they can not survive in cold weather, so they can not spread over mountains. However, it means that the same thing is likely to continue over and over again year after year.

Japan is not immune to the effects of global warming. Data from the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries shows that the rate of food self-sufficiency in Japan has been half or less than half except for rice, some types of potatoes and vegetables, and so on, for the last ten years. In other words, Japan is dependent on imports of wheat, some types of fruit, meat, fish and so on.

The number of people who go hungry in the world now exceeds 800 million and shows no sign of decreasing in the foreseeable future. The time may soon come when we won’t be able to eat whatever we’d like.

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