The Old Testament of the Holy Bible tells the story of Pharaoh refusing Moses’ entreaties to release the enslaved Israelites, and God in turn sending a series of ten plagues to show his might and pressure the Egyptian ruler to let his people go.
The plague of locusts was the eight plague that God sent after he had sent a plague of hail, according to the Bible.
“They covered all the ground until it was black. They devoured all that was left after the hail—everything growing in the fields and the fruit on the trees. Nothing green remained on tree or plant in all the land of Egypt,” Exodus 10:15 states.
But for farmer Devon Ousman this ravaging by locusts is not just some biblical tale told to churchgoers
It has been his life.
‘The breadfruit and chataigne trees are now like dry sticks. I never saw a tree so clean in my life. The locusts ate everything and the chances are that fruit will just drop off it may not stay,” Ousman told the Business Guardian.
Ousman’s farm in Princes Town is one of many farms in South Trinidad that have been attacked by locusts recently.
Ousman, 37, has seen locusts before, but he never saw them reach this far.
“Growing up here in Princes Town I never saw this amount of locusts before here. I saw them in Moruga before,” Ousman explained.
The farmer said his family has fields in both Princes Town and Moruga.
The family does various crops including mangoes, pommecythere, cassava eddoes, peas and paw paw.
The locust actions are giving the farmers and added headache, Ousman said.
“Once they destroy the leaves that hampers the crop from producing,” he said.
“It delays the harvesting period and that itself puts additional strain on the farmer because you have to re-fertilise. The amount of money you spend on that crop you lose. It comes like you gradually lose that because you are not sure to get that crop going,” Ousman said.
Apart from the delays, Ousman said in some instances the locusts actually kill the plants.
“Once the locust feeds on the leaves it hampers that fruit it hampers getting the nutrients to that fruit to mature that fruit so you end up getting premature fruit. In some cases you will lose the fruit,” he said.
The ravaging by the locusts may in turn affect two of the upcoming religious holidays in this country.
Apart from the chataigne which is a staple for the Divali season, Ousman said the locusts may also cause difficulties to get peas for Christmas.
“I’m not foreseeing a peas crop. We are at the end of October and peas is supposed to start flowering next two weeks in order to get that peas to come in for the ending of November into Christmas and I am not seeing that,” he said.
Locusts also love plantain, Ousman said.
Ousman said a field of plantain is usually around $25,000-$40,000.
“Imagine investing in that and you lose that entire thing. And you still have to pay the bank. And you still have to provide for your family,” he said.
Apart from Moruga and Princes Town, there have been reports of locusts invading Debe, Barrackpore and New Grant as they have now moved from residential areas in South Trinidad to South Western coastal areas.
President of the Agricultural Society of T&T Darryl Rampersad said he anticipates that the locusts have destroyed over a million dollars in crops.
“We are hearing of huge losses and it is spreading,” Rampersad said.
“If you are to do an assessment $15,000 a acre by almost 100 acres,” he said.
Rampersad said the locusts are most likely to exacerbate the pressure facing the agricultural sector.
“We are approaching the Christmas and one of the crops down there is sorrel, which is a favourite,” Ousman said.
Sorrel is also a staple of the Christmas season.
Agricultural extension officers from the Ministry of Agriculture have been tracking the locust since August with the intention of destroying their breeding grounds.
Currently, 28 egg nests are monitored yearly by the Agriculture Ministry but there are concerns that the recent inclement weather may have split up the swarms.
The tracking teams have said that the locusts have made a circle and would normally return to their nesting grounds.
“We will see some pressure in agriculture and we will continue seeing that,” Ousman said.
“It is a lot of things farmers are being faced with,” he said.
Ousman said farmers have not gotten a financial assistance even in the face of COVID-19.
“I have credit with ADB and I can say that I have not gotten any deferral for COVID. Farmers had to face the full brunt throughout the year. And this locust situation is an added pressure,” he said.