THREAT TO FOOD SECURITY

State trains 600 NYS officers in locust control

Exercise done by state and UN to control infestation in 17 counties

In Summary

• UN says A locust swarm of one square kilometre can eat the same amount of food of 35,000 people in one day.

• PS says ministry has already distributed 7,500 litres of chemicals to control the locusts in various areas where the infestation has been reported.

A Wajir agriculture officer sprays a swam of locusts in Buna, Wajir North.
LOCUSTS: A Wajir agriculture officer sprays a swam of locusts in Buna, Wajir North.
Image: STEPHEN ASTARIKO

Three hundred out of the 600 trainees at the NYS College have started training on locust control as part of the action plan to boost the country's ground surveillance on desert locusts. 

The training is being done by the Food and Agriculture Organisation in partnership with the government. 

Desert locusts streamed in Kenya from Somalia in December and new swarms have been reported coming from Somalia and Ethiopia. 

Currently, 17 counties have been infested. They include Mandera, Wajir, Marsabit, Samburu, Garissa, Isiolo, Baringo, Turkana, Tharaka Nithi, Meru, Laikipia, Kitui, Embu, Machakos, Makueni, Kajiado and Murang'a.

Agriculture PS said the National Treasury has approved the release Sh300 million to fight the upsurge of the locusts. This is in addition to Sh230 million released in January. 

He said the ministry has already distributed 7,500 litres of chemicals to control the locusts in various areas where the infestation has been reported.

Secretary for Administration Kello Harsame, who spoke for agriculture CS Peter Munya, said that the government is doing everything to ensure the desert locusts do not escalate to a plague level. 

He spoke during the launch of the training on Friday at the NYS College in Gilgil in Nakuru county. 

Right now, if we do not increase ground surveillance and get the locusts when they are still hopper bands, and if we allow then to mature and breed, every new generation will increase 20 times in number. This is why we think NYS trainees would be excellent for this operation,” Harsame said. 

FAO Representative and interim to Kenya Tobias Takavarasha said the invasion is a direct attack to efforts in eradication of hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition. 

 

Our current concern is that the first generation swarms that came in from Ethiopia and Somalia are breeding and by the time the eggs hatch, it will be planting season with early germination of crops. The hopper bands are the most voracious feeders in the lifecycle of desert locusts, and that is why we are increasing ground control,” Takavarasha said. 

Technical experts have reported sightings of newly-hatched hopper bands in some parts of Eastern and Northern Kenya. The normal breeding season for desert locusts is from January to March.

He said FAO together with the government of Kenya, has put together a six-month action plan while monitoring the situation. 

We are bringing technical expertise in assisting with the current crisis, and to augment the government of Kenya’s efforts, brought in an expert from Morocco to lead the training,” he said.

NYS deputy director Enock Amdavi said,  National Youth Service trainees are always ready to serve. After this training, they will be deployed to various stations to start spraying the hopper bands." 

The UN food agency indicates that a swarm of one square kilometre can eat the same amount of food of 35,000 people in one day. 

“Already 3.1 million Kenyans are projected to be highly food insecure between August and October 2019. Agro pastoralist’s communities in the North are particularly vulnerable and are just recovering from a long drought, followed by floods. So far, approximately 70,000 hectares of land have already been infested,” FAO desert locust information service said.

Edited by R.Wamochie