Pakistan's government has endorsed a plan to help tackle the country's locust plague by encouraging people to catch the voracious pests and sell them as chicken feed.
Imran Khan, prime minister, has said he wants to extend a pilot project which saw farmers paid by the kilogram to catch the insects so they could be made into protein-rich poultry food.
The scheme would provide much needed income to farmers in some of the poorest parts of the country.
Pakistan is facing its worst locust infestation in a generation as marauding swarms have caused widespread damage in the Middle East, East Africa and South Asia.
The country has already seen swarm this year roam from their winter breeding grounds across southern Pakistan towards the Indian border. The United Nations warns that fresh swarms are on their way from Iran or East Africa.
Desert locust swarms can fly up to 90 miles per day and if good rains fall and conditions are favourable, can increase their numbers 20-fold in three months.
Almost all crops and non-crop plants are vulnerable and the insects are one of the biggest threats to food security in large parts of the world.
Federal information minister Shibli Faraz, told Dawn newspaper that Mr Khan “wanted to turn the crisis into an opportunity, therefore, he approved a plan of catching and selling locusts”.
A pilot scheme in Okara in Punjab province saw locals paid 20 rupees (10p) per kilo of locusts. Once word got round, the nightly haul averaged some seven tonnes of locusts.
Poultry feed is normally made from mashed soya beans, but locusts provide a far higher level of protein.
Keith Cressman, senior locust forecaster at the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation, said it was important not to catch locusts which had been sprayed with pesticide.
“Catching and collecting non-treated desert locust adults is viable but can be more difficult in warmer temperatures,” he said.
“The best time is in the early evening after swarms have settled. Nets and bags can be used. Yemenis do this regularly and are masters at this technique.
“Most important is not to collect sprayed locusts. A public awareness campaign on this is most likely needed; it could include tips on how to catch locusts.”
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