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    Mali seeks aid to fight locust swarms

    BAMAKO - Mali is urging international donors to help the government fight locusts swarms which threaten to destroy vital food crops in the West African country.

    West Africa is facing its worst locust crisis for 15 years with swarms moving rapidly south from Algeria and Mauritania.

    Forty-two swarms have already been spotted in Mali and Communication Minister Gaoussou Drabo said serious damage was already visible in some grassland areas.

    "We are threatened with a locust invasion...Every day we receive new reports (of locust swarms)," Drabo, who is also acting agriculture minister, said on the sidelines of a meeting with international development agencies on Saturday.

    Drabo said Mali could afford about half of the locust-fighting campaign and needed an extra $1 million (640,000 pounds) to treat some 100,000 hectares with pesticides - which experts say is the minimum it must do to protect its crops from the locusts.

    Desert locust swarms, which can contain as many as 80 million insects per square km, can travel more than 130 km (81 miles) in a day. Adults can eat roughly their own weight, or about two grams, of food every day and swarms can devastate entire crop fields in a matter of minutes.