- (Photo: Reuters/Pierre Holtz)
A plague of locusts have invaded Madagascar and has the country's officials scrambling for a solution to protect crops and livestock that local residents depend on most.
The swarms of locusts are massive, containing billions of insects, with some reports of the swarms stretching miles and taking over an hour to pass in some cases.
"It's like you are in a movie, it's incredible," Alexandre Huynh of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization told CNN. "You don't see anything except locusts. You turn around, there are locusts everywhere."
The locusts consume crops that farmers' plant and also eliminate the grassy pastures that livestock depend on, which makes eliminating the insects vital. Nearly 80 percent of residents of the island nation live on around a dollar a day and have no other means of survival.
Estimates indicate that Madagascar needs around $40 million to combat the locust plague, according to the Rome-based Food and Agricultural Organization.
Time is short and the bulk of the funds, about $20 million, would be needed by June of this year, before the locusts have a chance to destroy the country's crops and threaten half the country's population with starvation.
"Currently, about half the country is infested by hoppers and flying swarms - each swarm made up of billions of plant-devouring insects," the FAO revealed in a recent report.
The FAO warned that if no action was taken the locust swarm- it has already been declared a national disaster by Madagascar's agriculture ministry- they would affect two-thirds of the country by September 2013.
The greatest concern was the fact that more than half of the county's rice crops were at risk, which officials said had to be the first priority.
"Rice is the main staple in Madagascar," the report stated.