State runs out of options as locusts devour more crops

Locusts invade Kanukurmeri village in Turkana County on January 20, 2020. Nine other counties have been affected.

The locust menace is far from over.

In fact, things could get worse if authorities do not act fast to contain the marauding swarms, the UN has warned.

The pests are spreading fast to different parts of the country due to the poor response from the government. Mother Nature is also doing the insects a favour.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) says the weather has fuelled their movement, meaning there’s no sign of the situation changing soon.

The agency said the pests could multiply 500-fold by June if unchecked. Earlier in the week, FAO Director-General Qu Dongyu said the agency would activate mechanisms to support affected governments.

“Authorities in the region have initiated control activities but, in view of the scale and urgency of the threat, additional financial backing from the international community is needed,” Mr Qu said.


About 70,000 hectares of vegetation in Samburu could be destroyed by the insects, he added.

The swarms have spread to Isiolo, Samburu, Wajir, Garissa, Marsabit, Laikipia, Mandera, Kitui, Baringo and Turkana counties.

While supervising the aerial and ground spraying of the insects in Lengusaka and Samburu East, Agriculture Principal Secretary Hamadi Boga admitted that the government was struggling to contain the situation.

“We have only five planes for the operation (spraying) and four surveillance helicopters; our resources are strained as the aircraft are serving all the affected counties; our officers are exhausted as they have been battling the locusts for three weeks,” Prof Boga said.

“The locusts are copulating and will soon start laying eggs. We have tagged the sprayed areas with Global Positioning System to help us eradicate the nymphs.”

Meanwhile, debate on the safety of the pesticides used to fight the desert locusts continues.

The dispute between the Agrochemicals Association of Kenya (AAK) and an alliance of food safety organisations has led to confusion on the continued use of the pesticides.


The Route to Food Initiative (RTFI), Biodiversity and Biosafety Association of Kenya, Kenya Organic Agriculture Network and Resources Oriented Development Initiative say the pesticides are cancerous and have devastating effects on the human reproductive health system. The chemicals are allegedly banned in Europe.

The groups are pushing for the withdrawal of the pesticides that contain permethrin, carbendazim and acephate, saying they are linked to cancer and are toxic to the environment.

They have also petitioned Parliament to ban and withdraw at least 262 pesticides from the market.

However, AAK chief executive Eric Kimunguyi said the chemicals have been tested and found to be safe to humans, livestock and the environment.

“It is a grave matter to ban the chemicals. We need a solid reason to do so,” he said.


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