Plague of locusts Famine and The Black Plague – The Plight of Madagascar

Plague of locusts compounds Madagascar’s food crisis

A swarm of the red locusts 20 kilometres north of the town of Sakaraha, south west Madagascar, on April 27th last year.  The swarms will return later this month, devastating food crops. Photograph:  Bilal Tarabey/AFP/Getty Images

A swarm of the red locusts 20 kilometres north of the town of Sakaraha, south west Madagascar, on April 27th last year. The swarms will return later this month, devastating food crops. Photograph: Bilal Tarabey/AFP/Getty Images

First, bring a large pot of water to the boil. Add a bagful of live locusts – untreated by pesticides – and stir. Simmer for a few minutes, then drain. In a separate pan, heat up some oil. Toss in the locusts and sauté until crisp. Add salt to taste and serve with boiled rice.

For more lasting nutritional value – and to get that umami kick in vegetable soups and stews – make a powder with the sautéed insects: grind them finely (a stone will do it), leave to dry, then store in an airtight jar. Stir a large spoonful into any dish requiring a nutritious, meaty hit. Or simply add to boiling water for a high-protein drink.

Locust powder stays fresh for up to two years, making it a favoured option for planning ahead while turning the adversity of a locust plague into a culinary opportunity.

In the sun-scorched village of Ambatovanda, in southwest Madagascar, the local children giggle and look on with curiosity as widowed farmer and mother of four Françoise Neka gently outlines each recipe. They whisper and nudge each other in wonder not only at the idea that their visitor does not know how to catch locusts (a sheet or mosquito net is best, as everyone in these parts knows, and if you dig a trench in the soil you can find them at the larval stage) but also that someone has gone through life never having tasted their favourite dish: “les criquets frits!” (fried crickets) they shout in unison when asked.
Plague
It was not by choice, however, that the people of this village of about 250 in the commune of Andranavory acquired a taste for insects. Their region of Atsimo Andrefana is at the epicentre of Madagascar’s locust plague – the worst this island nation has seen since the 1950s – which since June 2012 has destroyed up to 40 per cent of rice crops in 17 of the country’s 22 regions, and threatens the livelihoods of 13 million people.

Some four million of this former French colony’s 21 million population are food insecure, according to a joint study by United Nations agencies the World Food Programme and the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). The locust plague, coupled with the effects of cyclones, poor rains and erratic weather, has placed a further 9.6 million at risk of food insecurity.

Where the locusts get to the food crops first there remains little to eat but the insects themselves. And even though locusts provide five times more energy, weight for weight, than beef, says Justin Miha Haingondrainy, head of the evaluation unit of Madagascar’s National Anti-Locust Centre (NALC), the amount caught cannot compensate for the food losses incurred by the plague.

The swarms will likely arrive over Ambatovanda later this month when the rainy season, always late on this part of the island, gets under way. The villagers know what to expect. “They come in huge swarms, like big black clouds,” says 53-year-old farmer Philibert Maharanga, who is head of the village and a volunteer with the NALC. “Then they descend, and they keep eating until there’s nothing left. They even eat while they’re sleeping, and eliminate at the same time, without stopping. They don’t stop until everything is gone.”
Migratory locust
The Malagasy migratory locust, which can reproduce for four generations and eat its own weight of 2-3g of food each day, is the main culprit. Within two days of the locusts’ arrival in this area last year, all 10 hectares of Maharanga’s corn crop had been stripped. “Nothing was left,” says the father of 20 (and husband to two wives) who in the past year has had to sell 10 of his 15 zébu, valuable hump-backed cattle, for his family’s survival. PAGE 2 OF THE REST OF THIS STORY IS HERE

Shadow of bubonic plague grows over Madagascar

Experts warn former French colony faces Black Death epidemic unless it slows spread of rodent-borne disease

A young boy carries a tank to collect water  in Antananarivo in Madagascar. Malagasy officials announced last month that the city’s coffers were empty and there was no funding for rubbish collection. Refuse has been piling up, encouraging the growth of the rodent population. Photograph: Stephane de Sakutin/AFP/Getty ImagesA young boy carries a tank to collect water in Antananarivo in Madagascar. Malagasy officials announced last month that the city’s coffers were empty and there was no funding for rubbish collection. Refuse has been piling up, encouraging the growth of the rodent population. Photograph: Stephane de Sakutin/AFP/Getty Images

Health experts have warned that the former French colony faces an epidemic of bubonic plague unless it slows the spread of the rodent-borne disease. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and Pasteur Institute say prisoners in the country’s rat-infested jails are especially at risk, and are working with local health groups on a campaign to improve prison hygiene by exterminating rats, fleas and cockroaches. Prisoners are given rat-traps and insecticide.

The 3,000 inmates of Antanimora, the main prison in the capitalAntananarivo, live with a huge rat population that spreads infected fleas through food, bedding and clothing, according to the ICRC.

http://www.irishtimes.com/news/world/africa/shadow-of-bubonic-plague-grows-on-madagascar-1.1660936

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