Eating locusts

July 01, 2019

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SINDH’S agriculture minister is reported to have offered an out-of-the-box solution as the province faces an attack by a huge locust swarm. He has suggested that the people should eat the locusts; apparently they are “as tasty as shrimps”. Perhaps he should go a step further and recommend some recipes. Shrimps taste good in soup and biryani, and are delicious when barbecued. What about locusts? There was a time not very long ago when in some areas of the country locusts were indeed consumed as food, and perhaps it is important to add that they do make for a nutritious, protein-rich meal. The residents of Sindh, who are currently facing the brunt of this swarm, may not need any encouragement from the minister to make a culinary delight out of the burgeoning tragedy that their crops are facing. Indeed, hunger can midwife many other such innovations too.

The problem is not so much in the nature of the suggestion, but that the minister appears to be mocking the difficulties faced by the growers as the pest attack increases. Had this been an off-the-cuff remark made during a press interaction that would be one thing. But it seems the minister has gone to considerable lengths to get his message across through leaflets that have been distributed in towns around the province. In the same leaflet, he has called upon federal authorities to do more to help combat the swarm, particularly by deploying aerial spraying of the affected areas. The question still remains, what exactly has the provincial government done about the problem thus far? There are reports of at least one round of aerial spraying conducted by aircraft taking off from Sukkur, and some accounts of ground-level efforts at pest control. But there is little indication that the provincial authorities are alive to the magnitude of the problem. This kind of ‘let them eat locusts’ attitude is what gets the PPP government in Sindh into trouble during times of crisis.

Published in Dawn, July 1st, 2019