DEVASTATING INVASION

Kenya gets Sh4.5 billion to fight locusts

Kenya among four of the hardest-hit countries alongside Djibouti, Ethiopia and Uganda

In Summary

• Locust swarms have infested 23 countries across East Africa, the Middle East and South Asia, the biggest outbreak in 70 years, the World Bank said

• In Kenya, the locusts are eating in one day the amount of food consumed by all Kenyans in two days.

Mating yellow locusts at Makutano village in Kitui county.
PLAGUE: Mating yellow locusts at Makutano village in Kitui county.
Image: MUSEMBI NZENGU

The World Bank has approved Sh53.4 billion in grants and low-interest loans to help African and Middle Eastern countries fight locusts eating their way across vast swaths of crops and rangelands.

Kenya is among four of the hardest-hit countries alongside Djibouti, Ethiopia and Uganda and will receive $160 million (Sh17.1 billion) immediately, Holger Kray, a senior World Bank official, told Reuters. It's a record amount from the Bank.

He said Yemen, Somalia and other affected countries could tap funds as needed.

“The Horn of Africa is at the epicentre of the worst locust outbreak in a generation, most probably in more than a generation,” he said, noting the new coronavirus pandemic is exacerbating the crisis.

Locust swarms have infested 23 countries across East Africa, the Middle East and South Asia, the biggest outbreak in 70 years, the World Bank said.

It threatens food supplies in East Africa where nearly 23 million people are facing food shortages.

The World Bank estimates the Horn of Africa could suffer as much as $8.5 billion in damage to crop and livestock production by year-end. This is predicted if there are no broad measures to reduce locust populations and prevent their spread.

Desert locusts can travel as far as 150km (95 miles) a day, sometimes in swarms as large as 250km (155 miles) across, eating their own body weight in greenery.

The new World Bank programme will help farmers, herders and rural households by providing fertiliser and seeds for new crops, and cash transfers to buy food for families and livestock.

It will also fund stronger surveillance and early warning systems to make the region more resilient, Kray said.

In Kenya, the locusts are eating in one day the amount of food consumed by all Kenyans in two days, Kray said.

Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya said 27 counties were infested by the desert locusts in February but the swarms have become smaller.

The swarms were first reported in the country in December 28 last year in Mandera county. They have since devoured vegetation in Samburu, Isiolo, Marsabit, Mandera, Kitui, Tharaka Nithi, Garissa, Laikipia, Wajir, Embu, Turkana, Baringo, West Pokot, Makueni, Kajiado, Tana River, Machakos, Elgeiyo Marakwet, Uasin Gishu, Kirinyaga, Meru, Nakuru, Murang’a, Nyeri, Trans Nzoia and Bungoma counties.

“By May, only four counties including Marsabit, Isiolo, Samburu and Turkana are heavily infested but this week we have received reports of a few hoppers in Mandera," Munya said.

Spraying and assessment of the infestation are underway despite problems of climate change and insecurity.

"We are controlling the situation to ensure there is minimal damage from the locust invasion,” Munya said.

He said the swarms could decrease between June and July due to wind pathways that may move the swarms towards Ethiopia, Somalia and Sudan.

(Edited by V. Graham)