HOPE

Locusts plague may reduce despite heavy rains - experts

FAO says ground and air operations in Kenya and Ethiopia successful, so far

In Summary

• The number of swarms is declining as swarms have been reported during the past few days in 11 counties compared to 15 counties last week.

• On Friday, the Met department predicted most counties will experience flash floods during the long rains season expected to start in March.

A swarm of locusts in Bua area near the Garissa-Tana River Border on January 29
LOCUSTS: A swarm of locusts in Bua area near the Garissa-Tana River Border on January 29
Image: /ALPHONCE GARI

The predicted heavy rainfall will create favourable conditions for the breeding of crop-munching desert locusts, experts say.

However, the locusts' crisis during this year’s March-May cropping season is likely to be lesser compared to last year’s.

The Food and Agriculture Organization said the intensive ground and aerial control operations in Kenya continue to make good progress in reducing the number of swarms, ahead of the rains required for maturation and breeding.

“In this way, spring breeding that is expected to occur from March to June is likely to be on a much-reduced level,” FAO said.

By end of February last year, the locusts had damaged 470,000 acres of crops in Kenya.

On Friday, the Met Department predicted most counties will experience flash floods during the long rains season expected to start in March.

The rains could also be a blessing as they may temporarily stall the movements of the locusts.

“The number of swarms is declining as swarms have been reported during the past few days in 11 counties (Wajir, Marsabit, Samburu, Baringo, Meru, Tharaka-Nithi, Embu, Kitui, Machakos, Makueni, Nyandarua) compared to 15 counties last week,” FAO said.

The highly mobile swarms present in Kenya are often seen many times, leading to multiple reports of the same swarm. FAO added.

Last Friday, Met The Kenya Meteorological Department has warned that flash floods are very likely to occur in the Lake Victoria Basin, the Highlands West of the Rift Valley, the Central Rift Valley and the highlands East of the Rift Valley due to the expected rainfall in these areas.

The March-May 2021 long rains weather outlook indicated that slippery roads and poor visibility during rainstorms may also pose a danger to motorists and pedestrians, especially along the Kikuyu-Kinungi stretch on the Nakuru-Nairobi highway.

“Urban flooding is also very likely. Motorists should, therefore, take utmost care during the rainy period to minimise accidents that would result from such weather conditions,” Met warned.

Met director Stella Aura said contingency plans and strategies should be put in place to avert such incidences.

In the Lake Victoria Basin and the Highlands West of the Rift Valley where above-average rainfall is expected, lightning strikes are highly probable, especially in Kisii, Kisumu, Nandi, Bungoma (Mt. Elgon areas) and Kakamega counties.

“Cases of flooding in flood-prone areas such as Budalang'i are likely. Landslides/mudslides are likely on the hilly areas of western Kenya as well as parts of the highlands East of the Rift Valley,” she said.

Aura said Rift Valley lakes, which are already filled up, are expected to maintain high levels of water and may lead to the displacement of people and/or loss of lives, livelihoods and destruction of property.

The Ministry of Interior and Coordination of National Government, county governments and humanitarian institutions are advised to put in place measures to avert possible negative impacts that may arise including loss of lives, livelihoods and property.

County governments are also advised to clear drainages in good time to avert artificial flooding of the city estates.