Locusts Invasion in Kenya- An ‘Extreme Danger’

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Locusts Invasion: A brief history

Between April and August 2018, some cyclones hit the Empty Quarter, an area in the Southern Arabian Peninsula creating conducive conditions for locusts’ reproduction. The resulting moisture in the sandy soil led to high mating rates, laying eggs which hatched and developed to immature adults (pink in colour) before the issue was noticed.

Once the swarms grew huge, they started moving which they did in two directions; one swarm headed to Iran and some parts of Pakistan while the other headed to Yemen. With the situation in Yemen currently, the locusts wasn’t much of a trouble hence nothing was done.

With the aid of the winds, this swarm migrated across the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden to the horn of Africa, particularly Ethiopia and some parts of Somalia.

In Kenya

The current locusts invasion is the second one in Kenya in 70 years. Desert locusts are not harmful to human and animals in terms of attacking but their harm might as well be greater than physical attacks.

The locusts were first spotted in the northern parts of Kenya on 28th December 2019 from Ethiopia and Somalia. From here, they have been spreading rapidly across the country affecting at least 15 counties today.

On 20th January, the locusts got to Baringo County spreading to Embu County as on 27th January.

So far, at least 18 counties have been invaded.

Some examples of these include, Mandera, Wajir, Marsabit, Garissa, Isiolo, Samburu, Baringo, Kitui, Embu, Meru, Kirinyaga, Murang’a, Laikipia, Nyeri and Kisumu.

The Harm

One square KM would host 40 million locusts, this number can consume a total of 80 tonnes of food. This is according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). That amounts of food can feed 35,000 Kenyans. This is a clear signal that food security is threatened and an action needs to be taken urgently.

Locusts are a big threat to human and animal life because they literary destroy anything green on the land. Knowing that we survive on the farms as the primary source of food, the locusts invasion is too huge a nightmare for the locals to bear.

Other important facts on the locusts invasion

One swarm measures 60 KM long and 40 KM wide.

Each locust eats their body weight every day.

Swarms are spreading very fast, up to 150 km in a day.

Desert locusts can travel about 120 miles, which is close to 200 kilometers a day.

Spraying, especially, using planes which is the control mechanism that the government has been using cannot work in densely populated areas, for instance, Murang’a County where the desert locusts have been recently spotted.

The locusts migrated as immature adults but have now matured up. Control measures must be heightened as the case is deteriorating with each day. According to the UN, the locusts are likely to multiply 500 times by June, 2020 if the situation doesn’t get controlled early enough.

What has and is being done:

At the beginning, the ministry of agriculture advised Kenyans to bang on metal objects, whistle and do such loud shouts to keep off the menacing insects from the farms. This method has been proven futile and the fact is that it won’t help with the current case.

Initially, police had tried to use tear gas to control the locusts but this also did not help. The government then picked on spraying planes which so far has not resolved the problem.

The government even went ahead to fire the CS Kiunjuri and replaced him with Peter Munya.

The Kenyan government announced allocation of close to 30 million shillings to be used to exterminate the harmful insects.

Of late the government has engaged the NYS to do ground spraying. The service men have already been taken through a drill through the partnership of the Ministry of Agriculture and Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

Solution:

A month ago, the government was fighting to contain the locusts invasion so as to prevent the swarms from spreading to the cropland particularly the Central Kenya counties. Today as I write this, the dreaded just happened; these highly destructive insects have got to the food production areas. Just to give you an idea of how urgent a solution is needed, the locusts have destroyed nearly 71,000 hectares of farmland in Somalia and Ethiopia for the period they have been there.  Kenya is indeed in ‘extreme danger’ as the UN stated it.

Literary, the only real solution to this disaster means killing all the locusts. That gives you the real picture of how weighty the task is. May be even spraying will not exterminate this plague as we have seen the level at which the locusts are breeding is quite high.

However, since desert locusts are weather-dependent, there is hope that they will be soon disrupted by the winds and probably move back to the Ethiopian region.

Locusts Invasion set in immediately after the floods affliction that left Kenyan farmers in various regions suffering produce losses. Could divine intervention be the healing for this menace as some Kenyans have put it?