Kenya: Farmers in Northern Counties Face Threat of New Locust Swarms

The fight to contain swarms of desert locusts that continue to wreak havoc in several Northern Kenya counties might take longer following the ongoing long rains which will hasten the insects’ maturity and laying of eggs.

The second wave of invasion has so far been reported in more than 15 counties with fears that the remaining swarms could multiply and get out of hand due to cold conditions occasioned by the rains.

Although the Food and Agriculture Organisation says swarms continue to decline in Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia, where control operations are underway, ongoing rains in southern parts of Ethiopia which will give rise to hatching and hopper band formation in coming weeks will pose a huge threat to Kenya.

Farmers, who have started planting, stare at huge losses as the ongoing rains present favourable breeding grounds for the swarms. Swarms can fly up to 150 kilometres in a day with a square kilometre swarm consuming as much food in a day as 35, 000 people.

The continued destruction of crops and pastures in the affected counties threatens livelihoods of millions of people in Kenya and poses a huge threat to farming and pastoralism, the main economic lifeline.

The voracious pests have caused destruction on crops in Embu, Tharaka Nithi, Meru counties and pastures in Northern Kenya.

Other counties where infestations have been reported in the last two months include Samburu, Laikipia, Baringo, Marsabit, Mandera, Garissa, Machakos, Wajir, Isiolo, Tana River, Kilifi, Nyandarua and Kitui.

Agriculture CS Peter Munya recently said besides ground and aerial control operations, the government was training local communities on reporting of the swarms so that they are sprayed within the shortest time possible.

Lack of regional coordination efforts among countries in the Horn of Africa could further worsen the situation in Kenya as limited control operations continue against hopper bands on the Red Sea Coast in neighbouring Sudan.

Majority of the infestations present in Ethiopia, where immature swarms persist to the East of Rift Valley in Bale Mountains and Harar Highlands areas that received rainfall, could start breeding in the coming weeks.

In the latest forecast, the UN agency said few immature swarms persist northeast Somalia between Galkayo and Gardo areas and that swarms in Samburu had started maturing and could start laying eggs in two weeks’ time.