SECOND GENERATION OF PESTS

Kenya put on two-week alert over new locust swarms

There is a considerable threat to crops and pastures in some counties

In Summary

• In April, experts said the swarms in East Africa were likely to multiply 400 times by end of this month due to favourable weather and foliage. 

• If efforts to control the swarms are not ramped up, Kenya could experience food shortage this year.

A new image supplied by FAO shows areas where the swarms are forming
A new image supplied by FAO shows areas where the swarms are forming
Image: FAO

Millions of immature locusts are clustering around Turkana and Marsabit counties and may start their destructive flights by end of this month.

The Food and Agriculture Organization says this is part of the second-generation of swarms Kenyans were warned about early this year. 

"Before migration, swarms will remain for a short time during which there is a considerable threat to crops and pastures in Turkana and Marsabit counties," FAO says in a statement. 

 
 
 

In April, experts said the swarms in East Africa were likely to multiply 400 times by end of this month due to favourable weather and foliage. 

FAO says the swarms in northwestern Kenya are likely to continue forming in the next 14 days but decline in July.

"Thereafter, the swarms are expected to migrate northwards to the summer breeding areas in Sudan and Ethiopia where they will mature quickly and lay eggs," FAO says.

Last month, Cyril Ferrand, the FAO's resilience team leader for East Africa told Scidev, a UK-based science news network, that East African countries were facing delays in receiving pesticides due to Covid-19.

"The biggest challenge we are facing at the moment is the supply of pesticides, and we have delays because global air freight has been reduced significantly," he said. 

However, last week, Hamadi Boga, the Principal Secretary for Crop Development said they have chemicals to spray the young locusts in Turkana.

"These are young, immature locusts referred to as hoppers or nymphs. They are not easy to spot as they breed in areas with little human population,” he said. 

 
 
 

If efforts to control the swarms are not ramped up, Kenya could face food shortage this year, the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa said.

The AGRA report on food security outlook in Africa says Kenya is likely to face food shortages because of low food reserves, heavy rains and the ongoing desert locust invasion.

“Consequently, increased demand for food imports combined with supply chain delays is likely to lead to food price inflation,” the May report states.  

It showed that the food security situation has been worsened by the Covid-19 pandemic and desert locust infestation that have reduced food distribution efforts and led to significant food losses.

According to the Ministry of Agriculture, the country’s maize stocks declined by 25 per cent in May, with the country closing the month with about 315,000 metric tonnes of maize.

The report indicated that domestic maize consumption levels were higher than local production indicating low food availability in the country.

Agriculture CS Peter Munya told the Senate Committee on Agriculture that maize in the country’s Strategic Grain Reserves is unfit for consumption as it has been contaminated with aflatoxin.

The loss comes when the country is still struggling with a locust invasion and the effects of the coronavirus, both of which have hurt the country’s food chain as markets are closed and movement remains restricted in some counties.

In response, Kenya plans to import two million bags of white maize for human consumption and two million bags of yellow maize for animal feed between the end of June and mid-July.  

(edited by o. owino)