ON THE MOVE

Why Nyeri is not in a hurry to spray locusts

In Summary

• Wachihi said after assessment, his department realised that the locusts were 'not all that destructive'.

• He said he did not see the need to use chemicals on less destructive locusts, only to be out of stock when the eggs hatch, if any.

Charles Kamau from Mukurwe-ini subcounty in Nyeri shows tree branches broken by a swarm of locusts that had landed there last week
VORACIOUS PESTS: Charles Kamau from Mukurwe-ini subcounty in Nyeri shows tree branches broken by a swarm of locusts that had landed there last week
Image: /EUTYCAS MUCHIRI
Daniel Gachanja shows a locust left behind by a swarm that landed in Mukurwe-ini subcounty in Nyeri last week
VORACIOUS PESTS: Daniel Gachanja shows a locust left behind by a swarm that landed in Mukurwe-ini subcounty in Nyeri last week
Image: /EUTYCAS MUCHIRI

The Nyeri government is not in a hurry to spray desert locusts that have been reported in some parts of the county causing panic among farmers.

The locusts have been reported in all subcounties in Nyeri – Othaya, Mukurwe-ini, Kieni West and East, Mathira and Tetu. They leave after a day or less.

But Agriculture CEC James Wachihi said after the assessment, his department realised that the locusts were "not that destructive".

He said he did not see the need to use chemicals on less destructive locusts, only to be out of stock when the eggs hatch, if any.

The focus will be on monitoring where the locusts might have laid eggs and if they will hatch within two to three weeks.

If the eggs hatch then the hoppers can be sprayed while on the ground before they start flying, he said.

The hoppers, he said, are destructive after growing and turning pink.

“My advice to Nyeri people is that they should stop panicking because the government is on top of things. We are aware of the locusts’ presence in the county and our officers are on the ground. We have been sensitising farmers and monitoring where the locusts might have landed,” he said.

However, he said, the government would take action if need be.

“But we will have to evaluate to know what is the right point to spray the chemicals,” Wachihi said.

Gachihi said the county has been conducting workshops on locust management and about 240 departmental staff, interior and the monitoring ministry have been trained.

This is to ensure that the county is ready to respond if the insects invade the area.

Gachihi said the county has also formed a coordination team comprising stakeholders from the county and national government.

Team members from the national government are specifically from the ministry of Interior, Kenya Forest Service, Kenya Forestry Research Institute and private people with large tracts of land in Nyeri.

However, farmers have expressed fears that the insects may leave behind massive destruction if they stayed in the area longer.

Daniel Gachanja, a farmer in Kangurwe in Mukurwe-ini, said a swarm of locusts landed in the area last week and left behind a trail of destruction, including breaking tree branches and feeding on food crops and pasture.

They spent a night there in their millions and left the following day.

 “They also ate tree leaves and some food crops before leaving. Our fear is that these locusts may come back and feed on both pastures and our food crops in the farm,” he said.

Resident Charles Kamau urged the government to be vigilant and ready to fight them in case they strike.

The insects were first reported in Kenya in December and started arriving in the county in small swarms in the last week of January.