The locust swarms in Mauritania have been a big problem for the last 3,000 years in this sandy West African country. When the locust swarm they destroy crops and kill livestock off as well which has led to severe food insecurity and poverty. When the locust swarm there can be up to tens of millions of them per kilometer and in 2004 a major swarm impacted thousands of people.
Recently, scientists have been working to solve the problem. They have come up with several types of ICTs such as “eLocust” computing devices, satellite images, and crowd sourced locust reports from nomads with cellphones. All of these technologies together work to predict swarms similar to the way in which weathermen predict the weather. However, the technology can only tell if the conditions are right for swarms to come; for example if it has rained a lot recently and the vegetation is lush for the locust to feed on. The satellites are not high resolution enough to find actual swarms and the scientists say they need to work on getting higher resolution satellites and more monitoring. Currently, 150 people work on this “eLocust” technology and collect and look at data about locust sightings from the people who call the free telephone number when they see a locust. The article states that, “forecasting these events could save lives”.
However, there are many problems with these current ICTs. First off, scientists are not completely sure why these locust swarm. There are many different theories and the scientists should put more effort into figuring this out so that they can more effectively predict swarms. Furthermore, this article made me think of the tomato example that the man in the video we watched in class gave. The man in the video stated that giving farmers the information on the current market value of their tomatoes is great but it does not really help them because they have no choice but to sell their tomatoes right then before they rot in a few days. He went on to say that what scientists should be focusing their energy on isn’t getting the farmers these technologies so they know current market values, but coming up with ways in which the farmers can make their tomatoes last longer so that they have more control over when they sell them before they rot. Similar to this example, how does it help the Mauritanian farmers to know when the locust swarms are coming? They are not able to move their land, and while they can move their livestock, they still have to return to their destroyed land eventually where there is no longer any food to feed their animals. The only group I can think of that this information is useful to is nomadic herders because they can avoid areas where they know swarms might appear. However, if the nomadic herders do not have cellphones, which I imagine most of them do not since there are not many outlets for nomads to charge their phones, they do not have regular access to this information. The article did provide one promising example though. The locust center in Nouakchott predicted a swarm successfully by combining the different technology. It said that, “the center identified a potential swarm in advance and treated the area with insecticides to prevent a disaster from occurring”. If they pair this new technology with cheap and effective ways for farmers to get insecticides then the information about locust swarms coming becomes extremely useful.