“This was worst attack I ever seen in my life, like a flood of locusts, travelling and eating everything on its way,” said Ramoo. The 61-year-old farmer depends on seasonal vegetable and biannual cash crops, including tomatoes and sugar cane for income to support his family of five, but locusts have destroyed everything.
Thousands of Christian farming families are facing famine after millions of locusts caused catastrophic loss to spring crops in Sindh Province, one of the poorest rural regions of Pakistan.
The immense swarm of desert locusts, considered the most destructive migratory pest on earth, entered into the agricultural belt in November 2019. Originating from breeding grounds in West Africa, the devouring insects can migrate at alarming speeds, travelling up to 150km a day, aided by prevailing winds.
30,000 acres of farmland ravaged
Like most Christian farmers, Ramoo is a “sharecropper” and receives only 50% of the income his crops make, with the rest going to his landlord. But with at least 50% of the precious rice and tomato crops devoured by the swarm just before the harvest, his income has been halved again. Ramoo’s family will have to survive on only £30 this month.
The plague of the pests, on a scale almost unheard of in Pakistan, has ravaged around 30,000 acres of land. At least 50% of wheat, rice, tomatoes, sugar cane and other crops have been destroyed. The cotton crop – an essential cash crop for Christian farmers – has also been devastated.
Normal pest control methods useless to save crops
Father-of-six, Tulsi, explained how he struggled in vain to protect his crops. “We used drums (dhool), and other noisy sounds to get rid from those insects, but before leaving there was only straw in field but no leaves. Even in the areas where the rice crop was about to be harvested, were severely damaged,” said Tulsi.
Traditional manual control methods, such as pesticide spraying by hand and ground clearing, are nearly useless in the face of such a huge infestation, that few farmers have seen in their lifetimes.
Desperate farmers selling precious livestock to survive
Farmers have simply been unable to save their crops. Many have also been forced to sell their livestock, a precious asset, and household possessions to buy food and other basic family needs. Some are so desperate that they are leaving their land in search of scarce labouring work.
Thousands of Christian families are now living on only one basic meal a day and malnutrition is rife, especially in children and nursing mothers.
Prime Minister Imran Khan has declared a national emergency and the government is trying to contain the locust infestation with aerial spraying, so that crops can be planted safely for the next growing season.
Local church leaders have contacted Barnabas, asking us to help 700 of the most badly affected and vulnerable Christian farming families, now at risk of starvation, to survive until the next harvest in three months’ time.
Food crisis looming in East Africa
The ravenous locust swarms have already swept across East Africa, with a devastating impact, before spreading north to Yemen, Iran and now Pakistan. Thousands of Kenyan Christians facing food shortages in the badly hit Pokot region have just sent an urgent call for help to Barnabas.
Please help them to survive until the harvest comes.
£25 will provide a hungry Christian farming family with a staple food pack including flour, rice, dahl (lentils), sugar, tea, and salt, to last one month.
£75 will provide three months’ supply of food for one Christian family – enough to sustain them until the next vegetable harvest in May.