On Saturday the 4th of January, the Kenyan government announced the commencement of aerial spraying to curb locust invasion and provided 3,000litres ofJan 6th 2020 · 2 min read
On Saturday the 4th of January, the Kenyan government announced the commencement of aerial spraying to curb locust invasion and provided 3,000 litres of chemicals for the operation, including the distribution of handheld sprays to residents.
According to a statement issued by the government, swarms of desert locusts started crossing into Kenya around Dec. 28, majorly affecting three counties – Wajir, Marsabit and Mandera. Aerial spraying began in the affected counties located in the northern region of Kenya to ward off the invasion that has already caused extensive damage to farmlands in neighbouring Somalia and Ethiopia.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), over 70,000 hectares (175,000 acres) of farmland in Somalia and Ethiopia have been destroyed by the locust invasion, threatening food supplies in both countries. This makes it the worst locust invasion in 70 years.
Prior to the spread in Kenya, FAO warned that unless early and sustained measures are taken to control the invasion of desert locust in Ethiopia and Somalia, the pest will spread to other East African nations, including Djibouti, Eritrea, Kenya, South Sudan and Sudan. The rapid incursion of the desert locust across many regions resulted in significant losses on croplands and jeopardizing the livelihoods of smallholder farmers.
David Phiri, FAO Sub Regional Coordinator for East Africa and Representative to the African Union and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, warned that the locust is making the food insecurity situation worse in the sub-region. He went further to say that the weather seems favorable for locust breeding, with a high probability that the locust will continue to breed until March-April 2020, spreading to other East African nations.
Locust infestation might lead to a considerable drop in agricultural production and would further exacerbate the existing dire food insecurity and malnutrition in affected regions. Unless there’s a control in the spread, it will greatly affect people and livestock in many parts of the sub-region, which is home to 50 percent of Africa’s food-insecure people.
Kenya’s agricultural sector accounts for 65 percent of the country’s export earnings and provides the livelihood (employment, income and food security needs) for more than 80 percent of its population. The desert locust is the most dangerous of the nearly one dozen species of locusts. It is normally present in the desert areas across 20 countries between West Africa and India, covering nearly 16 million square kilometres.
Green vegetation and moist sandy soils are favoured for breeding. A typical desert locust swarm can contain up to 150 million locusts per square kilometre. Swarms migrate with the wind and can cover 100 to 150 kilometres in a day. An average swarm can destroy as much food in a day as is sufficient to feed 2,500 people. Locust invasions are among the biggest threat to agriculture. The insects travelling in huge numbers can destroy large tracts of farms in a short period of time, leaving residents at risk of famine and starvation.
Written by Faith Ikade