Nepal’s government will pay farmers a cash reward for catching desert locusts in a bid to alleviate the recent damage caused to harvests by the pests, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported on Tuesday.
Swarms of desert locusts have been decimating “agricultural heartlands” across India and Pakistan in recent months amid South Asia’s worst locust infestations in decades. Over the past few weeks, the migratory pests have entered Nepal, threatening local crops and spurring the national government into action.
“Our decision [to offer a cash bounty] is aimed at encouraging people to catch the insects instead of using pesticides which might be harmful to the environment,” Nepal’s agriculture ministry spokesman Khagendra Prasad Sharma told AFP.
According to the report, farmers and locals in two Nepalese provinces invaded by locusts this week will be offered up to 25 rupees (21 cents) for every kilogram (2.2 pounds) of the insects caught.
From Sunday to Tuesday, roughly ten kilograms (22 pounds) of locusts were collected in Nepal’s southern city of Butwal, province official Yam Narayan Devkota told the news agency.
“They are being collected in other areas [of Nepal] too. Depending on the volume, they might be used as feed for chicken and livestock,” the official added. This practice of converting pests into animal feed has been documented recently in Pakistan. There, farmers are also catching locusts to sell to government officials, who then turn the insects into chicken feed.
According to the report, the locusts are caught with “huge mosquito nets” that “block their flight.” Farmers conduct the captures at night when the locusts are “resting” and more easily caught. The insects are then “swept into large bags and brought to [provincial] officials.”
According to Nepal’s Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock, so far, the locust swarms in Nepal have yet to swell to huge numbers, known as a plague, and the country has not yet recorded any major crop losses.
Locust swarms have migrated from East Africa to the Arabian Peninsula and on to South Asia so far this year, decimating crops along the way. According to the report, experts anticipate locust numbers to “explode” later this month upon the arrival of South Asia’s monsoon season.