Kenya braves another bigger, deadlier locust invasion

Fifteen out of 47 counties in Kenya have been hit by a second and deadlier wave of locusts that came in through Ethiopia and Somalia, the Kenyan government announced on Thursday.

The counties hit by the deadly swarms are in Arid and Semi-Arid Land (ASAL) where most people are nomadic pastoralists who rely on livestock for living.

Agriculture Minister Peter Munya told a news conference on Thursday that Kenya, like other East African nations, is well-prepared to contain and battle the swarms in the second invasion, but the threat is far from over.

“The [East African] country is under the second invasion by desert locusts which entered from Ethiopia and Somalia. To date, 15 counties [out of 47] have reported desert locust invasion,” Munya said.

He added that a total of 75 swarms have invaded different regions in Kenya since November 2020.

Munya said that out of 75 swarms, sprayer crafts and ground teams had tackled 66 swarms, covering 19,100 hectares and registering an 80% success rate in the fight against the critters that destroy any green foliage in their path.

“We have also deployed nine surveillance and sprayer aircrafts and three are on standby. We have also deployed 21 vehicles mounted with sprayers for ground control operations,” he added.

Farmers suffer huge losses

In the Meru county, the locusts attacked just as farmers were preparing to harvest their maize plantations.

Many farmers have turned to the government for assistance in killing the critters that are eating everything in their farms. “Not even trees are spared. The ones that are in our farms are immature [locusts],” Kawira Mberia, a farmer, told Anadolu Agency.

“These immature locusts eat as much food as their body size and are the most dangerous. They have destroyed many maize plantations. Grass for dairy cows has been decimated and trees have been broken. The farmers have suffered huge losses and the government should move in to cushion us,” he added.

Mberia said most farmers are trying their best to ward off the swarms, using primitive methods but urgent help is needed to save livelihoods and prevent a state of food insecurity.

The East African desert locust intensity has also been blamed on climate change with a focus on Cyclone Gati that hit the Somalia coast in the Indian Ocean, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization said.

In a statement Thursday, Etienne Peterschmitt from the UN food body said: “Rains and winds are two of the most favorable conditions for desert locusts to multiply rapidly and spread to areas where they had been under control.”/aa