WINNING THE BATTLE

Locust swarms decline from 400 to three in five months - FAO

PS says Kenya is prepared if a another invasion hits the country in December

In Summary

• Desert locusts have been nearly wiped out, with only a few small and manageable swarms remaining in Turkana and Samburu counties. These are being reduced, the government and FAO say. 

• Kenya is well prepared in case of another invasion in December. Pesticides, spraying aeroplanes and trained personnel are ready in case there's an infestation in Ethiopia and Somalia or the wind blows locusts from Yemen.

 

Mating yellow locusts in Makutano village, Kitui county.
BREEDING ZONE: Mating yellow locusts in Makutano village, Kitui county.
Image: MUSEMBI NZENGU

The number of desert locust swarms has declined from a high of 400 five months ago to two or three today in Turkana and Samburu counties.

The remaining swarms have been contained and are small and manageable, Food and Agriculture Organization deputy country representative Hamisi Williams said on Wednesday. 

"We are getting few reports of desert locusts from Turkana and Samburu, sometimes two or three swarms. This is down from a high of 200 to 400 swarms when infestation was at its peak," Williams told a media workshop on locust reporting in Nakuru.

 

He warned that the weather could contribute to another desert locust invasion but that may also depend on what happens in Ethiopia, northern Somalia and Yemen.

“This is because the swarms we got here in December 2019 were not born and bred in Kenya, but they came by wind and you have the southerly wind again coming in November-December," he said.

The United Nations agency official explained that if there are still swarms out there in Ethiopia and Yemen, the possibility of wind bringing them to Kenya is there.

Experts cannot say conclusively there will or will not be an invasion, he said. "We have to stay on the side of caution and always be prepared."

Williams said the government and FAO are prepared and working closely to ensure they deal effectively with locusts if they return.

Agriculture Principal Secretary Hamadi Boga said the country will remain vigilant.

“Some swarms are still being reported in Turkana and Samburu where we have some of the most uninhabited spaces," Boga said.

"We have enough chemicals so even if they decide to come back in December, we will be ready. We have enough resources, aerial spraying planes and trained personnel." 

Williams said pre-invasion preparations are ongoing in Yemen and other countries in the Horn of Africa.

“We are gathering equipment, pesticides and enhancing countries' efforts to reduce populations that are left," he said.

Discussions are underway in Yemen to support countries with pesticides "because if they don’t deal with the situation well, the possibility exists that winds will pick swarms across the Gulf of Aden and they land in the Horn of Africa."

(Edited by V. Graham)