• Widespread rains will allow new swarms to mostly stay in place, mature and lay eggs while a few swarms could move from Kenya to Uganda, South Sudan and Ethiopia.
• During May, the eggs will hatch into hopper bands that will form new swarms in late June and July, which coincides with the start of the harvest.
The desert locust situation in East Africa remains extremely alarming as more swarms form and mature in northern and central Kenya, the UN has said.
The Food and Agricultural Organisation locust watch update has indicated that spring breeding will cause a further increase in locust infestations in East Africa, eastern Yemen and southern Iran in the coming months.
“In Kenya, more swarms mature in central and northern areas with egg-laying imminent. The current situation in East Africa remains extremely alarming as more swarms form and mature in northern and central Kenya, southern Ethiopia and probably in Somalia," the update stated.
"This represents an unprecedented threat to food security and livelihoods because it coincides with the beginning of the long rains and the planting season.
“Although ground and aerial control operations are in progress, widespread rains that fell in late March will allow the new swarms to mostly stay in place, mature and lay eggs while a few swarms could move from Kenya to Uganda, South Sudan and Ethiopia. During May, the eggs will hatch into hopper bands that will form new swarms in late June and July, which coincides with the start of the harvest.”
In Uganda, a maturing swarm was reported on April 17 in Katakwi district of the northeast and in Ethiopia, swarms mature in the south and disperse northwards in Oromia and Somali region.
FAO recently scaled up its desert locust appeal to Sh16.4 billion and so far Sh12.2 billion has been pledged or received.
Mastercard Foundation recently donated Sh1 billion to step up the fight against the desert locust in East Africa amid concern about an imminent upsurge in numbers.
QU Dongyu, FAO director-general, confirmed in a statement that the desert locust upsurge continues to be alarming, particularly in the six East African countries worst affected or at risk—Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Uganda and Tanzania.
“[Some] 20.2 million people are already experiencing acute food insecurity in the affected East African countries. I thank Mastercard Foundation for its generous contribution as the desert locust threatens to provoke a humanitarian emergency," Qu said.
"It is crucial that we act hand in hand, scale up efforts to contain the locusts and protect the livelihoods of millions of farmers and their families.”
Reeta Roy, Mastercard Foundation President and CEO, said its contribution over the next 12 months aims to assist FAO with the early detection of locust swarms, ground and aerial spraying operations, and impact assessments that would promote a sustainable and responsible locust campaign.
It will focus on an area spanning 50,000 hectares (123,553 acres) across six affected countries—Kenya, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia and Uganda.
"It's clear that the desert locust infestation poses an unprecedented threat to the affected communities, and particularly to the economic livelihoods of smallholder farmers," Roy said.
Qu said the UN agency is continuing its efforts to contain the upsurge despite restrictions on the movement of personnel and equipment resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic.
FAO estimates the number of locusts could increase another 20 times during the rainy season unless control activities are stepped up.
Edited by Josephine M. Mayuya