In January, a desert locust infestation – the worst in 25 years – spread throughout Kenya after already wreaking havoc in Somalia and Ethiopia, posing the most significant threat to Kenya’s food security in recent times.
The swarms crossed the border from Somalia on December 28, and have now spread to northern Mandera and Marsabit, eastern Wajir and Garissa, as well as central Isiolo, Samburu, Meru and most recently, Murang’a and Machakos counties. Agriculturists estimate that over 500,000 hectares of crop land and pastures have so far been destroyed.
“The favourable conditions brought about by heavy rains experienced during the short rainy season last year, bringing forth lush vegetation, has made it possible for the insects to thrive and they will be here until February,” said Dr. George Otieno, University of Nairobi Head of Insect science.
Kenya’s Ministry of Agriculture has said it will take at least six months to control the locusts, highlighting the threat to food security as Kenya’s breadbasket regions prepare for main crop season planting in March.
Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya speaking Monday, 27th January in the awake of reports indicating fresh invasions in the Embu and Tana River areas, said more swarms of locusts were arriving from Somalia and Yemen.
The Kenyan government and Desert Locust Control Organisation of East Africa have been working to provide aerial spraying for locust control and have allocated ksh.30 million (US$300,000) to this task.
It remains to be seen whether these efforts by the government will halt the spread of the locust invasion.
The potential of the pesticides’ adverse ecological impact that includes the destruction of beneficial insects and organisms remains unknown, causing another potential threat to the environment.