AFGHANISTAN: Wheat for locusts plan turns sour
Many parts of Afghanistan are prone to locust invasions
QALA-I-NAW, 14 July 2008 (IRIN) – Hundreds of people in northwestern Afghanistan are annoyed with the authorities for allegedly failing to give them promised wheat aid in return for dead locusts.
After locusts swarmed into Badghis Province in early April damaging crops, people were told that for each kilogram of dead locusts they delivered to a specified government department they would receive 7kg of wheat.
According to provincial government officials, within 15 days of the launch of the programme – announced by the Afghanistan National Disasters Management Authority (ANDMA) – people had handed over thousands of kilos of dead locusts.
“We have issued receipts to the people indicating the amount of received locusts and the wheat aid to be given… We have received 9,680 kilograms of dead locusts,” Abdullah Mishkawani, secretary of the provincial emergency response commission, told IRIN.
“We have to give these people about 67,760 kilograms of wheat for their contributions,” he said.
Those who had captured and killed the locusts said they had had to work very hard and also been exposed to various diseases such as diarrhoea. Officials conceded that the anti-locust drive had helped eradicate the seasonal pest quickly and effectively.
Let down by aid agencies?
It is now two months since people began to bring in piles of dead locusts but no wheat aid has been delivered, locals and provincial officials said.
“We have nothing to distribute to these people. Officials in Kabul have repeatedly told us that they also do not have anything to deliver,” said Mishkawani.
Photo: Khalid Nahez/IRIN
Local people in Badghis collected over 9,000 kg of locusts in 15 days hoping they will receive wheat aid in return
Abdul Matin Edrak, the director of ANDMA in Kabul, told IRIN that he had launched the campaign as a feasible and cheap disaster management tool, but had been let down by aid agencies.
“People were our last hope in fighting the locusts in Badghis Province because we did not have… pesticides. We called on them to help us stop the locusts and we promised to help them in return,” said Edrak.
“We will continue our efforts and will urge aid agencies to help these people,” he said.
Joma Khan Haidari, head of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) in Badghis, said UN agencies were not part of the plan and therefore could not provide the required wheat.
Meanwhile, peoples’ patience is wearing thin: Requests for the promised wheat aid have been turning into threats.
“We want our rights,” chanted one middle-age man, Burhanudin. “We did our bit and now the government should fulfil its promise,” he said.
“We’ll abandon our homes here and will move to Kabul to demand what we’ve been promised,” said Samiullah, another local resident.