BREEDING AT ALARMING RATES

Meru residents fear famine after locusts return

Have turned to scaring pests by beating iron sheets and drums, and screaming

In Summary

• An estimated 20,000 hectares have been invaded across 14 counties.

• Residents in Ngatune, Thangatha and Gacibine in Tigaia Central tell state to spray the pest by air, fearing famine similar to previous years. 

Locusts have invaded parts of Meru again, leaving a trail of destruction of crops and other vegetation.

Gacibine, Thangatha and Ngatune residents Thangatha ward in Tigania Central, have expressed fears over an inevitable famine similar to previous years and have pleaded with Agriculture CS Peter Munya to immediately spray the destructive pests. 

The residents have urged the ministry to tell residents the most effective chemical to kill the insects.

They have turned to beating iron sheets and drums, whistling and screaming to scare the desert insects. 

Patrick Kiriinya said, “The desert locusts are breeding at alarming rates and they may lead to a permanent environmental change to the affected areas and reduce soil fertility. CS Munya should come to our rescue by spraying the insects." 

He added, "We suffered last year's drought, it could be worse if they are not controlled. We spending long nights chasing them from our farms."

He said the locusts are currently at Ntorone near Shauri. They have destroyed pasture and crops at Ngatune, Thangatha and Gacibine. 

Igembe South MP John Paul Mwirigi had earlier said emergency funds could have been released on time after the Food Agricultural Organization sent an alert on the invasion of the desert locust.

It is time the crisis was declared a national disaster. I have visited several areas invaded trying to chase them. We are tired screaming and whistling to chase the insects
Senator Kithure Kindiki 

"The Ministry of Agriculture should be less  cautious and deploy aircraft in the invaded areas. They should put up measures to stop their invasion of other regions in the county,” Mwirigi said on Monday.

They were earlier reported in Ndumuru and along the Isiolo border in Igembe North constituency.

On Friday, Tharaka Nithi Senator Kithure Kindiki told the national government to declare the locust invasion a national disaster. 

He told the state not to bury its head in the sand while farmers and pastoralists are suffering due to the massive destruction of pasture and crops in many parts of the country. 

“It is time the crisis was declared a national disaster. I have visited several areas invaded trying to chase them. There are a lot of them at Kathangacini and Maragwa in Gatunga ward. We are tired screaming and whistling to chase the insects," he said. 

Kindiki toured Maragwa and Kathangacini locations to assess the damage in Gatunga in Tharaka constituency last week on Wednesday.

The locusts have been reported in Mandera, Wajir, Marsabit, Isiolo, Kajiado, Samburu, Garissa, Baringo, Meru, Laikipia, Tharaka Nithi, Kitui, Embu, Machakos and Makueni counties.

The first swarm crossed the border into Kenya from Somalia last year on December 28. Other swarms continue to come in from Ethiopia. 

An estimated 20,000 hectares have been invaded across the 14 counties.

Kindiki urged the national government to carry out an assessment of the damage that could lead to famine so as to compensate farmers.

Agriculture CS Peter Munya had said the heavy rains (which have subsided) are slowing down efforts to control the destructive pests.

"We have also been experiencing delays and shortage of the chemicals which are not found locally and are imported from Japan,” Munya said.

The CS said the President had given a go-ahead for the ministry to order direct purchase of the pesticides from the Japanese government.

He expressed fears the insects were breeding at an alarming rate. 

Kindiki blamed the county government for not releasing the disaster management funds to complement the national government in the fight. 

The United Nations has warned that the invasion is a threat to food security. 

Edited by R.Wamochie