The issue of food security is heating up again when the threat of the Covid-19 pandemic has not ended. Today, communities and farmer groups in parts of Africa, Asia to South America are seeing locust invasion reappearing after decades of disappearance. Many farmers in the affected areas were unable to do anything and saw their fields crumble to the level. The countries in Africa that are affected by the desert locust (Schistocerca gregaria) are Kenya, Ethiopia, Somalia, Uganda, and Sudan. The countries in the Middle East that are affected are Yemen, Oman, and Saudi Arabia. Countries in Asia that have been affected are Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, Iran, China, Vietnam, and Myanmar. Countries in South America that have been infected are Argentina and Brazil. Uruguay and Paraguay have already announced alert status.

FAO warns that the locust outbreak threatens the food security and livelihoods of 10 percent of the world’s population. FAO defines food and nutrition security as the ability to prevent disasters and crises, anticipate, recover from disasters in a timely, efficient, and sustainable manner. Another definition is to protect, restore, and improve livelihood systems in the face of threats that impact agriculture, nutrition, food security, and food security (FAO, 2020).

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Rick Overson from the Global Locust Initiative of the University of Arizona called grasshoppers very special because they have superpowers. First phase: each grasshopper lives alone for years, his physique is green and his physical development is irregular. Their inconspicuous physical appearance caused humans to ignore them. Second phase: the grasshoppers undergo an extraordinary physiological transformation when nature enters the rainy season with high humidity. The characteristics are the larger the brain size, color, and body size changes. Another dramatic change in the friendship phase, grasshoppers who used to live alone suddenly become attracted to and connected. If the warm climate lasts longer then they reproduce more quickly. The swarms of adult grasshoppers are more greedy and organized so that they can perform marching formations and fly in concert in large numbers. The ability of animals to change dramatically in response to certain environmental conditions is called phenotypic plasticity. Scientists assume that locust swarms can develop some traits over time because they are accustomed to living in harsh environments (NPR, 2020).


An Ancient Plague Returns to Haunt the Modern World

The plague of locusts with God’s intervention in the history of mankind is written in detail in the Bible. Several characteristics of locusts: abundant (Psalm 105:34; Nahum 3:15); locusts can be consumed by humans because they are clean and lawful (Leviticus 11:21-22); scattered by the wind (Exodus 10:13), (Exodus 10:19); one of the plagues that befell Egypt (Exodus 10:4-15); a small animal (Proverbs 30:24); flying swarms (Proverbs 30:27). Prominent qualities: dexterity (Proverbs 30:27); horses prepared for battle (Joel 2:4; Revelation 9:7); greedy (Exodus 10:15); fast (Isaiah 33:4).

For they covered the face of the whole earth, so that the land was darkened; and they did eat every herb of the land, and all the fruit of the trees which the hail had left: and there remained not any green thing in the trees, or in the herbs of the field, through all the land of Egypt.

The Old Testament Bible, Exodus 10:15

The people of Palestine ate locusts because they were very nutritious (Leviticus 11:21-22; Mark 1:6). Ancient Egypt received the plague of locusts for refusing to free the Israelites from slavery (Exodus 10:12-20), but Israel also suffered a similar punishment for disobedience (Deuteronomy 28:42). The plague of locusts was a sign from God, He sent His prophet to call Israel to repentance (Joel 1:1-20; Joel 2:1-17).


The Threat of Locust Outbreak in East and Southeast Asia

China

On June 28, 2020, the Pu’er Municipal Forestry and Grasslands Bureau of Yunnan Province announced the first appearance of an outbreak of yellow serrated bamboo grasshopper (Ceracris kiangsu) along the border between the Niuluo River Nature Reserve in Jiangcheng County, Pu’er City, and Laos. The locust plague crossed the border from Laos to cross into Yunnan Province. As of July 2020, officers from Yunnan, Sichuan, Guangxi, and Guizhou Provinces have been carrying out many emergency locust exercises in Jiangcheng. The Chinese government deployed 27,000 drones, supported by tens of thousands of officers, to spray insecticides. The number of control operations using drones has been carried out about 502 times.

The locust plague has attacked 11 districts covering an area of 106 km2. By early August 2020, more than 150,000 agricultural lands had been damaged. The Yunnan Forestry and Grasslands Bureau said an outbreak of locusts attacked bamboo, plantains, zongye leaves, and corn. Farmers in Yunnan stated that controlling the plague of locusts deftly over a series of mountains was extremely difficult. Local farmers felt helpless against the greatest number of locusts in decades. At the end of August 2020, the CCTV news agency reported that the locust outbreak had been “cleared up”. Local government, communities, and farmers continue to monitor, strengthen prevention and control until now.

The Covid-19 pandemic, heavy rains, floods, locust outbreaks, and several other natural disasters have forced the Chinese government to issue a regulation to stop food waste, which is the main message in the Clean Your Plate national campaign. President Xi Jinping has called on all officials and the public to stop wasting food because the food supply chain is disrupted, even though Chinese agriculture has had massive successes in recent years. Academics in agriculture and rural development confirm that China will experience food shortages in the form of rice, maize, and wheat by 130 million tonnes in the next five years (NTDTV, 2020; South China Morning Post, 2020).

Vietnamese

The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) warned that destructive locust swarms had entered India at the end of May 2020 and could potentially attack agricultural lands in Bangladesh, Myanmar, Laos, China, and Vietnam. The risk increases if grasshoppers have entered the territory of Myanmar, Laos, and China’s Yunnan Province.

The government has set up a steering committee that is responsible for delivering warnings, for preventing and controlling locusts. Long-distance warnings were issued when locust swarms began moving into southern India and Bangladesh. The government has collaborated with FAO and neighboring countries to exchange information to accelerate preventive action. A close warning will be carried out if grasshoppers have entered India and Bangladesh. The Vietnamese military also deployed its radars to detect swarms of grasshoppers that could potentially enter its territory.

By the end of July 2020, the locust outbreak had hit the Điện Biên province which borders Laos and China, including Sơn La, Cao Bằng, and Thanh Hóa. The locust plague only likes bamboo leaves and the like, and they will destroy corn plants if there is no bamboo. Grasshoppers have appeared since 2015 and usually stop by from neighboring Laos, but they are crossing for the first time from China (Vietnam News, 2020; Vietnam Express, 2020).

Myanmar

In early July 2020, farmers and agricultural officials were alert to the presence of swarms of desert locusts that have destroyed agricultural fields in India and Pakistan in 13 small towns in the states of Rakhine, Chin, and Sagaing. The Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, and Irrigation dispatched a number of officials to monitor the border areas directly bordering the Yunnan provinces of China, Laos, and Vietnam. The government involves local farmers to monitor agricultural lands. They are asked to immediately contact the nearest government office if they see locust swarms coming from the border with India, Bangladesh, Laos, or China (Myanmar Times, 2020).


Terms in locust plague:

Scale herd from small to very large:
The scale is very small: flocks of adult locusts can fly less than 1 km2, and herds of locusts are 1-25 m2. Small-scale: swarms of adult locusts fly 1-10 km2, and hordes of locusts 25-2500 m2. Medium-scale: swarms of adult locusts fly 10-100 km2, and herds of locusts 2500 m2-10 hectares. Large-scale: swarms of adult locusts fly 100-500 km2, and hordes of locusts 10-50 hectares. The scale is enormous: swarms of adult locusts fly over 500 km2, and herds of locusts over 50 hectares (FAO, 2020).

Threat status level from lowest to highest:
Green (calm): no threat to crops, but regular surveys and monitoring of agricultural lands. Yellow (warning): there is a potential threat to the crop so it is necessary to increase awareness and may require control operations. Orange (threat): must survey and control pests as there is a real threat to the crop. Red (danger): must carry out intensive surveys and control operations because locust outbreaks have damaged crops and agricultural land (FAO, 2020).

Locust plague development process:
(1) Breeding: the process of reproduction from copulation to reproduction. (2) Recession: no large numbers of locusts spread somewhere. (3) Remission: Each grasshopper enters a period of unfriendly or aloofness. (4) Outbreak: a marked increase in locust numbers and a herd formation. (5) Upsurge: the number of grasshoppers increases very much, followed by two consecutive breeding seasons in the same area or other adjacent areas. (6) Plague: locust swarms attack and destroy an area or several areas simultaneously in one year or several years. (7) Decline: locust swarms scattered and their numbers are drastically reduced due to breeding failure and/or human efforts to successfully control the outbreak (FAO, 2020).


Sources:

Alkitab Sabdahttps://alkitab.sabda.org

Argentina and Brazil crops threatened by locust swarm. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-53221211

Desert Locust Bulletin No. 502 (3 August 2020). https://reliefweb.int/report/world/desert-locust-bulletin-502-3-august-2020

Myanmar Wary of Locust Swarms in Yunnan, Laos, Vietnam. https://www.mmtimes.com/news/myanmar-wary-locust-swarms-yunnan-laos-vietnam.html

Locusts Are A Plague Of Biblical Scope In 2020. Why? And … What Are They Exactly? https://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2020/06/14/876002404/locusts-are-a-plague-of-biblical-scope-in-2020-why-and-what-are-they-exactly

Locust swarm from China ravages northern Vietnam bamboo forests, corn fields. https://e.vnexpress.net/news/news/locust-swarm-from-china-ravages-northern-vietnam-bamboo-forests-corn-fields-4135741.html

The worst locust outbreak in Yunnan in decades. https://www.ntdtv.com/b5/2020/09/01/a102930890.html/amp

Thirteen Townships in Myanmar on Alert Against Locust Swarms. https://www.mmtimes.com/news/thirteen-townships-myanmar-alert-against-locust-swarms.html?

Việt Nam on high alert for locust swarms. https://vietnamnews.vn/society/717715/viet-nam-on-high-alert-for-locust-swarms.html

Xi Jinping targets ‘shocking’ food waste as China battles floods and pandemic supply problems. https://www.scmp.com/news/china/politics/article/3096977/xi-jinping-targets-shocking-food-waste-china-battles-floods-and

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