Government warns of fresh wave of desert locusts invasion

Swarm of desert locusts

A swarm of desert locusts on a macadamia tree at Kangurwe village in Nyeri county on February 19, 2020. 

Photo credit: Joseph Kanyi | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Thirteen counties likely to be effected by the impending invasion.]
  • Agriculture PS says the swarm's advanced party has already arrived in the country.

The government has warned of another wave of desert locust invasion in 13 counties as it mobilises resources including aircrafts, helicopters, chemicals, sprayers and vehicles to effectively attack the swarm that is currently ravaging some parts of Kenya.

Agriculture Principal Secretary Prof Hamadi Boga says their maps and forecast show the swarm have multiplied in Somalia, Ethiopia and Yemen and they are rapidly moving towards Kenya beginning this weekend. 

“The map and forecast from Food and Agriculture Organisation shows locust population have increased and they will enter the country starting this weekend," Prof Boga said.

The PS said that the swarm's advanced party has already arrived in the country.

The Ministry of Agriculture is working with counties and international organisations to effectively combat the swarms. 

However, Prof Boga said they have mobilised resources, chemicals, aircrafts for spraying and helicopters mainly for surveillance.

According to the forecast, the counties that will be affected by the invasion are Mandera, Wajir, Marsabit, Isiolo, Garissa, Tana River, Turkana, Tharaka Nithi, Embu, Meru and Uasin Gishu, Elgeyo Marakwet and Pokot.  

"The invasion at the Coast region will however be minimal. The wave will be witnessed within Central and Northern Kenya. Part of the swarm is likely to move towards Tanzania because we have already sighted some in Taita Taveta and the wind is blowing towards the neighbour country," warned Prof Boga.

In an interview with local FM station, the PS expressed fear that if the insects invade Samburu, Marsabit, Samburu, Isiolo and Turkana counties where they enjoy a favourable breeding environment, the effects could be devastating.

Combat the insects

“But we have put mechanism to deal with the situation," the PS said.     

The government has further set up eight centres to help in controlling the locust invasion. The centres are in Witu, Wajir, Mandera, Turkana, Masinga, Samburu, Marsabit and Isiolo.

The centres are equipped with chemicals, three aircrafts, three helicopters for surveillance, gadgets including GPS, over 50 vehicles with low volume sprayers and National Youth Service (NYS) personnel.

The PS said the government will hire more vehicles and motorcycles to enable its team enter forests to survey the locusts.

NYS personnel will be dispatched to the centres in collaboration with both counties and national governments to combat the insects. 

The PS further said the government will conduct both ground and aerial spraying. 

“We are working closely with other international organisations to eradicate the menace. This is not a Kenyan responsibility alone; if we fail Ethiopia will blame us like we are blaming Somalia," he said.

He also asked the public in the areas expected to be affected by the invasion to inform the government of locust sightings.

Prof Boga said they are using synthetic pyrethroid to spray the insects which has less effect on the environment.

The PS said in the next three weeks the insects will spread upto the Indian Ocean due to the wind direction adding that the sandy soil in the ocean is favourable to them.