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Scots 'Locust Terminator' fighting worst swarms in years

Friday October 16, 2020

Glasgow-born John Clayton works for a firm that supplies insecticide sprayers/ FCDO/MICRON SPRAYERS LTD

A Scottish pest control expert is playing a key role in tackling the worst locust swarms seen in East Africa in more than 70 years.

Glasgow-born John Clayton has spent four decades working on projects to prevent the insects from eating crops.

UN agency the World Food Programme has warned this year's swarms threaten to devastate food supplies.

Mr Clayton, dubbed the "Locust Terminator", helps to supply insecticide-spraying equipment.

He said the work this year had been made more difficult due to travel restrictions to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

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But it is feared the billions of locusts could kill more people than the infection. They risk causing a famine in East Africa by eating millions of acres of crops in countries including Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya.

Mr Clayton is technical director at Micron Sprayers Ltd, which is based in Bromyard, Herefordshire.

The company supplies spray technology, including specially adapted planes, helicopters and trucks, to wipe out locusts.

It supports the work of the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation, which has received £18m from the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office to fight locust swarms.

Mr Clayton said: "This is potentially even more deadly than Covid-19 for communities living in the countries affected that are seeing the worst locust swarms for over 70 years.

"A bad outbreak comes around about every 10 or 12 years, but this is easily the worst we've had to deal with."

The 60-year-old said he was facing his fourth major locust plague.

He added: "It's compounded by the fact that coronavirus travel restrictions are making it a lot harder to get supplies over and conduct training.

"The locust plagues are a crisis within a crisis."

Mr Clayton said the last few years had been "relatively quiet" in terms of swarms.

He said the locusts being seen this year had largely emerged in December in Yemen where unrest, which has led to civil war, had made it difficult to control the insects at an early stage.

Mr Clayton said: "Coronavirus has made it just the perfect storm.

"They are not just dealing with locusts, but coronavirus, and internal security issues. It's a triple whammy for some countries, which is threatening millions of people with hunger and devastation."

The UK government's Africa minister, James Duddridge, said it was determined to "help tackle the worst locust outbreaks in Africa and Asia in decades, a plague made much worse by the impact of coronavirus."

He added: "British expertise is playing a crucial role in protecting vulnerable communities on the brink of starvation."

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