Locust invade thousànds acres of land under food crops in Northern Kenya
In the vast pastoral Turkana County, the pest has invaded over 10,000 thousands acres of land, about 2,000 square kilometers (494,210 acres) in Merti sub-county in Isiolo while in North Horr, Marsabit, the pests has àlso been reported.
Chris Aletia is the Agriculture executive (CEC) Turkana, “with this being a pastoral region the acreage or pasture that is affected is enormous. We require 4,000 litres of pesticides to eliminate the catastrophe that is a threat to the yield expected from our farms.”
According to the Agriculture Executive, the locusts may have migrated from neighbouring Ethiopia now that Turkana North Constituency was the first to be affected by the insects.
“The pest was first reported in Lakezone, Lapur Ward, Kibish Ward, Kaikor-Kaaleng and Nakalale wards. We have been coordinating with national government and already 1,000 litres of chemicals to kick-start the control was available,” says the CEC.
He says the county is asking various partners including Food and Agriculture Organisation to intervene because the exercise requires an aircraft for aerial spraying, which is an expensive venture keeping in mind that the county is vast,” said Mr Aletia.
The reports in June indicated that, the tree locusts are migratory, trans-boundary and notifiable pests that prefer to attack acacia trees and Prosopis that are the major tree vegetation cover in Turkana. But because the pest also attacks crops, it remains a great threat to the farmers and are one of the hindering factors towards attaining food security.” The report read in part.
He says that locust outbreak had been reported in most parts of the county even though the intensity of infestation needs to be determined by carrying out surveillance.
CEC, “Locusts are feeding on plant leaves. A single tree can have a swarm of about 150 to 200 locusts. The only reliable way to control the insects is through aerial spraying since most of the locusts were found to hibernate in Acacia and the Prosopis bushes that were surrounding the farm.”
According to the CEC, there is an urgent need to reduce the population of locust to lower the economic effect of the damaging insects on food security.
According to the report, Turkana West sub-county through support from development partners has already managed to carry out surveillance in some parts but however, more support is required for a detailed surveillance to be carried out due to its vastness.
“Within the farms, sorghum was the worst affected crop. The locusts were feeding on sorghum grains which were at between the milky and maturity stages,” reads part of the report.
The pests have also invaded parts of Turkana East sub-county that borders Samburu, Baringo and West Pokot. Farmers in Marsabit have now resorted to hiring youths to scare away locusts that ate maize and beans on their farms.
The pest invade trees and shrubs, unlike desert locusts which are more dangerous and feeds on grass and crops.
According to Agriculture Chief Administrative secretary Andrew Tuimur, government has therefore sent a team of officers for surveillance and also contacted the Desert Locust Control Organisation for Eastern Africa, which has provided a plane for spraying to prevent attacks that could affect browsing for goats and camels.
The CAS says the last invasion was reported in Turkana in 2016 and that the government managed to control it. In December 2007, the Agriculture ministry issued an alert about the desert locust in North Eastern, noting risks to maize and wheat.
This was after a large and dense locust swarm flew over Mandera from Ethiopia.
The ministry reported that the swarm’s was first reported sighted in Ogaden region of Ethiopia, having originated from Yemen. It later moved to south of Somalia and northern Kenya.
The ministry was able to control the pests, which were in the hopper stage, using pesticides. According to the ecology of the pest, this is the most destructive stage.
By Malachi Motano