Coronavirus crisis hurts war on locusts

Boys play in a locust infested area. PHOTO | FILE

What you need to know:

  • Various activities lined up to combat the pest could be in jeopardy after attention shifted to controlling the spread of Covid-19, which has killed more than 9,000 people.

The fight against locusts has been hit by a shortage of pesticides following the suspension of flights worldwide.

Agriculture Principal Secretary Hamadi Boga said it has become difficult to procure the right chemicals for locust spraying given that many countries have closed their borders in efforts to control the spread of the deadly Covid-19.

“There are challenges of importing chemicals arising from the cancellation of the flights.

“Importers are experiencing delays,” said Prof Boga, noting that chemicals for aerial spraying were the hardest hit.

“This further complicates other challenges we already had because the pesticides in our possession are inadequate following the slow procurement process.

“We have inadequate control equipment, inadequate surveillance and spray aircraft and other logistical challenges for surveillance and distribution of control equipment and pesticides,” he said in a status report sent to the Nation.

Prof Boga, however, said there were enough pesticides for ground spraying. Various activities lined up to combat the pest that entered the country last December, and has so far affected pasture and crops in more than 20 counties, could also be in jeopardy after attention shifted to controlling the spread of Covid-19, which has killed more than 9,000 people.

The government has been training extension officers on locust surveillance in different counties.

Some 30 masters of trainers had been lined up for training in Isiolo from March 23 to April 3. The trainers were each required to lead 30 field operation teams within their respective counties.

The government has, however, banned gatherings, a move that has seen churches cancel services, schools closed indefinitely and some important meetings postponed.

This, according to experts, could have a devastating impact on food security in the coming season.

According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the situation “remains extremely alarming” in the Horn of Africa region, especially in Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia, where widespread breeding is in progress and new swarms are starting to form.”

This, FAO says, represents an unprecedented threat to food security and livelihoods.

“Hopper bands continue to develop and form an increasing number of first-generation immature swarms in northern and central counties,” FAO reported earlier this week.

“Further concentrations are expected in Marsabit and Turkana,” said FAO in a statement.

“While earlier swarms have been less destructive as earlier feared, experts warn that the impact could be more devastating because farmers will have crops in fields.

“The new generation swarms will coincide with the planting season in the (East African) region, which normally starts at the end of March and early April,” FAO official Keith Cressman said during a previous briefing session.