Zimbabwe's 2020/2021 summer farming preparations could be under threat following the fast spread of the African migratory locust (AML) in Chiredzi district and parts of the Manicaland province.
The warning was issued this week by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), which added the outbreak could be a threat to food security and livelihoods of millions of people.
"In Zimbabwe, swarms and hoppers initially infested two sites in the Chiredzi District and have now moved into Manicaland province. Locust damage to crops will compound existing food insecurity in communities already affected by floods, drought and the impacts of Covid-19," the international organisation said.
According to other reports, a heavy presence of the locusts has been located at the Gonarezhou National Park in Chiredzi where they are breeding in large numbers.
FAO added the AML have also been located in neighbouring Botswana, Namibia, and Zambia.
"Outbreaks of African Migratory Locust (AML) are threatening the food security and livelihoods of millions of people in Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
"Around 7 million people in the four affected countries who are still recovering from the impact of the 2019 drought, and grappling with the economic impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic, could experience further food and nutrition insecurity.
"FAO is working with the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the International Red Locust Control Organization for Central and Southern Africa (IRLCO-CSA) to support the governments of the affected countries to control the locusts," said FAO.
It also noted that the AML outbreaks in southern Africa are separate to the Desert Locust emergency in eastern Africa.
However; FAO added, locusts are among the most destructive pests in the world. One swarm can contain tens of millions of adults - there are currently multiple swarms in the southern region. A single swarm can eat as much in one day as 2,500 people, demolishing crops and livestock pasture in a matter of hours.
"In Botswana, some smallholder farmers lost their entire crop at the start of the African Migratory Locust outbreak. As the next planting season approaches, the pest threatens the country's breadbasket region of Pandamatenga, where most of the country's sorghum staple is grown, unless control efforts are urgently stepped up."