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Kenya grapples with limited resources as locusts wreak havoc

Thursday January 23 2020

Locusts display at NMK

A display of locusts in this picture taken on January 9, 2020 at the National Museums of Kenya in Nairobi County. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

WAWERU WAIRIMU
By WAWERU WAIRIMU
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Strained resources and lack of enough personnel are some of the key challenges in the government’s efforts to contain the locust invasion in 10 counties so far.

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

Agriculture Principal Secretary Hamadi Boga, who on Thursday supervised aerial and ground spraying in Lengusaka in Samburu East, admitted that the government was struggling with inadequate resources.

LIMITED RESOURCES

The PS said only five aircraft used for spraying and four helicopters for surveillance were at their disposal.

He added that poor networks in remote areas challenged coordination between the ground team and pilots but reiterated the government’s commitment to containing the situation.

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“Our resources are strained as the aircraft are serving all affected counties. Also, our officers are exhausted from battling the pests for the past three weeks,” said Prof Boga.

On dealing with the mature locusts expected to lay eggs in a week, the PS said the government would target hoppers.

“The locusts have started copulating and will soon start laying eggs. We have tagged sprayed areas with GPS to help us in dealing with hatched nymphs,” he added.

PESTICIDES

The PS, who was with officials from Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the African Union (AU) and the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (Kephis), said the government would purchase more pesticides in a week for all counties.

He said more officials from the ministry would tour the counties, alongside county officials, to assess damage and institute mechanisms to restore normalcy.

Prof Florence Olubai, an entomologist from the University of Nairobi who took samples of the locusts at Lengusaka for testing, said the government must prepare to deal with nymphs as adults have started laying eggs.

“The government only needs to monitor hoppers after they hatch and before they fly,” she said.

Ms Luiza Munyua, a Senior Scientific Officer at Inter-African Phytosanitary Council, has been touring affected counties for assessments and will compile a report for action by the AU.

Meanwhile, at least 80 officers from eight of the affected counties have been trained on how to contain the pests.

SLOW RESPONSE

Officials from Garissa, Wajir and Baringo, where three swarms have been spotted, blamed the government for a slow response, noting that grazing fields and food security were at risk.

The swarms were seen at Damajaley and Sabena in Wajir and Kamurio in Tiaty, Baringo.

One of the three swarms in Wajir was on Wednesday spotted heading towards Hadado near the county’s border with Isiolo.

Four swarms have been spotted at Laresoro, Ndonyo Wasin, Meibai and Lengusaka in Samburu.