They marched over grassy plateaux and down craggy hillsides, beating the earth with sticks and blasting gunshots into the darkening skies. “Never before have we seen something like this,” says Mulualem Berhe, a 54 year-old farmer shaking a plastic bottle filled with pebbles, thick plumes of smoke enveloping the trees behind him. A few feet away a pickup truck rolls into view, teenagers crowded into the back, blowing whistles and yelling – eyes fixed on the horizon. Almost every inhabitant of Debrekal, a district of scattered homesteads near the northern Ethiopian town of Adwa, is enlisted in the battle against billions of desert locusts that descended in October and have ravaged countless fields. The villagers’ methods are simple and time-honoured: smoke, guns, and noise.
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