UN warns of fresh locust invasion by mid-November

The locust situation is less dramatic than one year ago and countries are better prepared, says FAO.

In Summary

• FAO says new swarms could start arriving in November and December. 

• A swarm was sprayed in the northern part of Laikipia County last week and there are subsequent reports that it has split up into several smaller swarms. 

Desert locust situation
Desert locust situation
Image: FAO

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization has warned that new swarms of desert locusts could start arriving in Kenya in November and December.

The government had said it would be able to contain the invasion by September, but FAO says there will be increased migration of swarms from Yemen to Ethiopia and Somalia in October.  The desert locust situation update was released on Wednesday. 

“Swarms of locusts increasing and moving in the Horn of Africa. This is likely to threaten Kenya where swarms could arrive in the north from mid-November onwards. Nevertheless, the situation is less dramatic than one year ago and countries are better prepared,” said FAO Locust Watch.

The swarms could extend to northern Kenya in November as prevailing winds coming from the north become established over the Horn of Africa.

The first desert locust invasion in Kenya was reported last December in Mandera county. By the end of March, the migratory pests had invaded 28 counties, threatening food security and community livelihoods. But as control efforts intensified, the number of swarms in the country significantly dropped.

Agriculture PS Hamadi Boga, however, said the government is prepared and will remain vigilant if another desert locust invasion happens.

He said the government has purchased enough pesticides and sprayers and there has been adequate training of ground control teams to help in containing the invasion before the October rains.

The locust update further reveals that the situation is expected to deteriorate as more swarms and another generation of breeding commences from the Red Sea to Somalia, which could be supplemented by swarms coming from Yemen.

Hamisi Williams, deputy country representative FAO Kenya, said on September 21 that there could be another desert locust invasion due to the short rains and the southerly wind coming again in late November-December.

“You have the southerly wind coming again in late November-December and if there are still swarms out there in Ethiopia and Yemen, we can’t rule out the possibility of wind bringing them back.

"So we are not saying it is going to be there, but again we are not saying it is not going to be there. We have to stay on the side of caution and always be prepared for it,” he said.

The FAO locust update indicates that the situation remains calm in West Africa. Hamisi said Kenya’s quick action to control the desert locusts may have saved the continent from an upsurge.

“This quick response to control desert locusts in Kenya may have saved the continent from disaster. If Kenya had not acted as quickly as it did, we would now have swarms being reported in West Africa,” he said.