Located in the Aegean Sea, off the coast of Lemnos, there exists a serene Greek island called Agios Efstratios (or Saint Eustratius). Even though it is a mere speck on the atlas, this island boasts of wondrous flora and fauna. It is isolated and comprises of a single village that houses around 200 people, who are accustomed to being plagued by locusts. In the past, their troubles with locusts weren’t addressed. However, the recent epidemic is of such a large extent that the Government had to step in and declare a state of emergency.
The islanders rely largely on agriculture and fishing produce for their livelihood. And so, the locust infestation has greatly dampened their efforts as a large chunk of the vegetation is being destroyed by these pests. This further affects the cattle in the region, which are said to be dying of starvation. Students of Agricultural University of Athens, villagers and other volunteers are actively working towards remedying the situation on the island. They were required to obtain a Government permit to spray certain pesticides on the lands. Reports affirm that there is good progress being made, which is no easy feat. Nevertheless, there is a long way to go before the island can revert to normal functioning.
The road networks on the island aren’t convenient enough to access all the affected areas. Stella Spanou, from the local administration, was recorded saying that the landscape poses a difficulty since the helpers are forced to work on foot and enter the locust infected areas (“Greece battles locust plague on Agios Efstratios island”, 2017). The vegetable gardens in the village are also impacted by this species. But, apparently, using chemicals in the village cannot be managed.
Just earlier, in the month of March 2017, towns in Greece were on lockdown because of a storm. Transportation was limited and tourism was further curbed by the harsh winds, power cuts etc. Trees were uprooted, and as a result, roads were blocked. Several areas were declared to be unfit for habitation. Similarly, Agios Efstratios’ locust infestation is problematic for the already plunging tourist visits. The island is said to barely get any visitors. Moreover, the tax payments weigh down the residents’ income. So it is possible that tax reductions could help them battle the swarm.
“Experts from the Agricultural University in Athens have proposed as solution aerial spraying with eco-friendly, organic chemicals, as the island is included in the European Union’s Natura 2000 network of nature protected areas. A three-year plan has been already worked out; the aerial spraying will be conducted also from drones in order to exterminate the swarms of grasshoppers in areas that are hard to reach.” (Keep Talking Greece, 2017). While the town is receiving help with regards to the plague, it would serve them well if a long term solution was introduced by the Government. It is not feasible for an island of such low means to be further harassed by insects that could be kept at bay through the use of more stringent measures.
Agios Efstratios has much to offer, on a global platform, like any other place. Let’s not drive another culture, another community to extinction.