MORE BASES SET UP

Desert locusts spread to Mt Kenya region

Ground and aerial control operations focusing on swarms before they mature to stop breeding.

In Summary

• The country also got the invasion in the northern area and the central parts of Kenya, with Isiolo being the epicentre of the first and second invasion.

• Hamisi Williams, the FAO deputy country representative, said control efforts are being focused on the areas to contain the situation.

Desert locusts invasion has intensified in Isiolo, Turkana, and Masinga area covering Kajiado, Tharaka Nithi, Kitui, Machakos, and Embu, among other counties.

Desert locusts invasion has intensified in Isiolo, Turkana and Masinga area covering Kajiado, Tharaka Nithi, Kitui, Machakos and Embu, among other counties.

Government Spokesman Cyrus Oguna on Wednesday said they will spare no effort to ensure locusts are eliminated once and for all. He spoke during a media field trip on desert locusts control in Isiolo.

Oguna said that to reduce breeding that would give rise to the next generation, ground and aerial control operations are focusing on the swarms before they can mature and lay.

Hamisi Williams, the FAO deputy country representative, said control efforts are being focused on the areas to contain the situation.

"If I was to make a parallel comparison, by this time last year, we had not made any move in terms of controlling the desert locusts. This is because we were not prepared and we didn't have much in place," Williams said.

"So if you look at what happened then and what is happening now in the third week of the second invasion, we have made many positive strides."

FAO and the government have since established six operational bases in Garissa, Wajir, Turkana, Isiolo and two recent ones in Mandera and Witu in Lamu county.

The second wave of desert locust was reported last November. The locusts have so far invaded 15 counties—Mandera, Wajir, Garissa, Marsabit, Samburu, Isiolo, Meru, Tharaka Nithi, Tana River, Kilifi, Kitui, Machakos, Laikipia, Nakuru and Nyandarua. 

FAO said immature swarms persist mainly in northern and central counties.

Oguna said about 300 swarms have been sighted in the second wave and 156 of them have so far been contained.

"The control team has contained the situation by around 80 per cent and only 20 per cent is still being controlled," he said.

Williams said they saw a phenomenon this year where the second invasion came through very unusual areas of the coastal region.

"We got swarms from southern parts of Somalia into Kenya as early as November 7, 2020, when swarms crossed to Lamu. They then moved to Kilifi and parts of Tana River and Taita Taveta.

"These were mature swarms and a few of them managed to lay eggs in the coastal areas and hoppers emerged. We dealt with them so we don't have any active swarms in those areas.

"But we have some hoppers that were left in critical areas of Kipini and Tsavo National Park. With Tsavo being a park, there are protocols that must be followed before you do control, due to matters of environment and health and safety of the wildlife.

"So we got our officers to train Kenya Wildlife Service to be able to support in the control of the locusts in the park," he said.

Mature adult locust in Salama, Laikipia North.
Mature adult locust in Salama, Laikipia North.
Image: JACK OWUOR

He said they are also using the National Youth Service to deal with problems in the coastal region.

Besides, the country also suffered invasion in the northern area and the central parts of Kenya, with Isiolo being the epicentre of the first and second invasions.

He said most of these swarms invaded Kenya through Wajir, coming from Central and Nothern Somalia.

"We also got a few swarms that came in from Ethiopia. For the last two weeks or so, the localised winds have kept most of these swarms within the borders of Kenya. We have a few swarms that are being managed in Marsabit," he stated.

The bulk of the swarms in the second wave was from Somalia and it invaded about 40,000 hectares. Out of this, 33,000 hectares have been controlled, while 7,000 hectares still have active swarms.

"Our success rate this time round is ranging between 80 and 86 per cent," Williams said.