Faced with the worst invasion of locusts for the past 25 years, ravaging the crop and threatening the food security, Pakistan has developed a pilot project to transform these insects protein-rich food for the chickens.
A first test was held in February, when villagers were paid for pick up locusts in the district of Okara (center), where farming is done without pesticides, which would make insects unsuitable for consumption.
“We first had to (…) teach people how to (the) catch. The nets are useless against them, ” said Muhammad Khurshid, an official of the ministry of Food, to the origin of the initiative.
The harvest is made by night, as the swarms, taking advantage of the cooler temperatures, banded together, motionless, on the trees and the plants, ” he says. One by one, the insects have been picked, and then thrown into bags, before the wake up, the first rays of the sun.
Each kilo was paid 20 rupees pakistani (11 euro cents). A fair contrast to the farmers, which they have in recent months wiped out whole fields.
“The locusts have devoured all my cereal “, says a peasant, questioned by the authorities, moreover, satisfied with having gained 1600 rupees (about $ 14) picking up the insects for a day.
In total, 20 tonnes of these harmful insects have been harvested, exhausting the budget of the authorities. The program was then paused.
The locusts, dried, and shredded, were then added to the poultry feed by Hi-tech feeds, the largest producer of animal feed from Pakistan. The new mix has been tested on 500 broiler-fryer chickens.
– Shortages –
“There has been no problem,” observes Muhammad Athar, director general of the company. The locusts are rich in protein, ” have a good potential for use in poultry nutrition “, he adds.
Although the pilot project is not a solution to the devastation of crops, it may provide farmers an alternative source of income, and to relieve the authorities find it difficult to distribute pesticides locust.
In June, the Prime minister, Imran Khan has approved a plan for the extension of this project, while Pakistan is facing its worst attack of locusts for the past 25 years. According to the UN, heavy rains and cyclones have triggered a multiplication “unprecedented” swarms last year in the arabian peninsula.
The crisis is so serious that the government had declared the phenomenon as a national emergency and launched an appeal for aid to the international community.
Bananas, mangoes and other vegetable crops are all vulnerable, the fear of food shortages, while exports of wheat and cotton provide vital income in Pakistan, the economy already is suffering from the new coronavirus.
According to the un Organization for food and agriculture (FAO), Pakistan could face losses of about $ 5 billion if 25 % of its crops were damaged.
The reduced yields could also push up prices and worsen the food insecurity, in a country where about 20 % of the population is already undernourished, and nearly half of children under five years of age suffer from stunted growth, according to figures from the world food Programme.
The locusts have also done heavy damage in the north-west of India, neighbouring Pakistan. A year of extreme weather conditions have also seen it devastate a dozen African countries this year.