HEAVILY INFESTED

Kill wingless locust hoppers before they fly - PS

Desert-like conditions in Samburu and Marsabit favourable to breeding.

In Summary

• The swarms were first reported in the country on December 28 last year and have since munched their way to 26 counties.

• The country has received two more aircraft from South Africa, bringing the total number being used for aerial spraying and surveillance to nine.

Locusts.
'NOT A THREAT NOW': Locusts.
Image: LINAH MUSANGI

Samburu and Marsabit are the counties worst-hit by the locust infestation, the Ministry of Agriculture has said.

Agriculture PS Hamadi Boga said on Tuesday that desert-like conditions in the two counties are favourable for locusts.  

“We are focusing on these areas as we continue with aerial spraying in all the areas where the desert locusts have invaded," he said.

 

The PS said they have received two more aircraft from South Africa, bringing the total number for aerial spraying and surveillance to nine.

"One is for surveillance while eight are being used for spraying,” he told the Star on the phone.

The swarms were first reported in the country on December 28 last year and have since munched their way to 26 counties.

They are Samburu, Isiolo, Marsabit, Mandera, Kitui, Tharaka Nithi, Garissa, Laikipia, Wajir, Embu, Turkana, Baringo, West Pokot, Makueni, Kajiado, Tana River, Machakos, Elgeyo Marakwet, Uasin Gishu, Kirinyaga, Meru, Nakuru, Murang’a, Nyeri, Trans Nzoia and Bungoma.

Boga said problems slowing the fight include insufficient pesticides and equipment due to the slow importation process.

“We are also faced with inadequate surveillance and spray aircraft to cover all the affected areas as well as security challenges from militants, especially in Mandera and Garissa counties. However, 70 youths from the two counties have been trained to join the control operation,” he said.

The PS said since the control operation started in December 2019, about 31,595L litres of pesticides have been used. An additional 16,625L are to be delivered this month.

 

He said the first-generation hoppers are currently fledgeling but developing into winged, immature adults (pink/red in colour).

Getting dangerous

widespread breeding is in progress and new swarms are starting to form, representing an unprecedented threat to food security and livelihoods at the beginning of the upcoming cropping season.

“This is the most destructive stage and active control activities are being done to prevent further development and increase in numbers. The first-generation mature locusts has largely declined within the 26 counties but Isiolo, Samburu, Kitui, Garissa, Turkana, Marsabit and Tharaka Nithi are experiencing hopper emergence and development,” Boga said.

Hoppers have not developed wings and are easier to kill.

According to the UN-Food and Agriculture Organization, the desert locust situation remains extremely alarming in the Horn of Africa, specifically Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia.

This is because widespread breeding is in progress and new swarms are starting to form, representing an unprecedented threat to food security and livelihoods at the beginning of the upcoming cropping season.

“In Kenya, hopper bands continue to develop and form an increasing number of first-generation immature swarms in northern and central counties. Further concentration is expected in Marsabit and Turkana. Aerial and ground control operations continue,” the locust watch stated.

FAO said more than 3.1 million people are facing acute food insecurity in semi-arid, hence the need to step up mitigating measures.

Edited by A. Ndung'u

Locusts.
'NOT A THREAT NOW': Locusts.
Image: LINAH MUSANGI