EFFECTS OF LOCUST INVASION

UN warns of hunger in East Africa between now and December

Kenya beats back desert locust upsurge but East Africa remains at risk, says FAO

In Summary

• FAO has controlled nearly 600,000 hectares of land from the beginning of January to the end of June.

• Between 400 and 500 billion locusts in the region have been destroyed, preventing huge damage to crops and range lands.

NYS servicemen who had been spraying locust nymphs in all breeding sites of Mwingi North subcounty
SUCCESSFUL: NYS servicemen who had been spraying locust nymphs in all breeding sites of Mwingi North subcounty
Image: LINAH MUSANGI

The number of people facing hunger in East Africa will increase between now and December, the UN food agency says.

The Food and Agriculture Organization predicts that there could be many more severely food insecure people in East Africa from June to December due to desert locusts.

“If we add another factor such as Covid-19 and the pre-existing caseload of people already food insecure prior to the upsurge, the situation in the region is quite dramatic,” said Cyril Ferrand, FAO’s resilience team leader for East Africa in an interview published on FAO’s website on Tuesday.

But Ferrand said there has been significant progress in a number of countries, especially Kenya, where only two of the 29 counties that were infested in February have desert locusts today.

He said currently the desert locust control efforts are concentrated in Turkana in northern Kenya, where the latest swarms have been located.

“In the coming days, that will drop to one county, and within three weeks Kenya should be free of large-scale infestations altogether. That is a success but the threat of possible re-infestation towards the end of the year will call for careful and continued surveillance,” he said. 

But while Kenya has beat back the desert locust upsurge, East Africa still remains at risk, according to FAO.

Ferrand said Ethiopia was still infested with a second breeding generation and partly re-infested by swarms from Kenya. The country is also under threat from new swarms arriving from Yemen.

“A lot of work has been done in Ethiopia but unfortunately the battle will continue there until the end of the year. In Somalia we are also making progress, despite security issues, but breeding is expected in the north. We expect summer locust breeding in the Sudan and western Eritrea also,” Ferrand said.

 

“We know we cannot defeat an upsurge of desert locusts globally in only a few months. Of course the locust situation in Yemen and Southwest Asia remains a concern, but I have to say when it comes to East Africa, we have made a lot of progress in the entire region, where expertise was very low at the beginning.”

 

The team leader said some of the affected countries had not seen desert locusts for decades; in the case of Kenya it was 70 years.

He however said there is still a need to build up monitoring and response capacity across the region to be ready if a renewed upsurge occurs.

Edited by Henry Makori