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Isiolo residents battle multiple locust swarms

Monday February 10 2020

Locust invade a farm in Kamaguna, Tharaka constituency.

Locust invade a farm in Kamaguna, Tharaka constituency. The insects that have invaded the entire region have destroyed thousands of hectares of crops. PHOTO | ALEX NJERU | NATION MEDIA GROUP  

WAWERU WAIRIMU
By WAWERU WAIRIMU
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ALEX NJERU
By ALEX NJERU
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A new swarm of desert locusts was on Saturday night spotted at Kulamawe in Isiolo County, spreading fear and panic among residents. This brings the total number of swarms the county is battling to three.

Isiolo Agriculture Chief Officer Salad Tutana said the swarm crossed over from neighbouring Garissa County.

Desert locusts have since the first invasion on December 28 continued to wreak havoc in Isiolo, Samburu, Wajir, Marsabit, Garissa, Turkana, Baringo, Kitui, Embu, Tharaka-Nithi and Machakos counties, threatening food security for both humans and livestock.

KAJIADO

Kajiado is battling two fresh invasions spotted at Malilima and Matapato areas while in Samburu, where close to 20,000 households have been affected, 12 swarms continue to ravage vegetation posing a huge threat to residents who mostly rely on pastoralism.

The Nation has learnt that the government has shifted focus from dealing with the adult locusts, reported to have started copulating, and is now aiming at destroying hatchlings.

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Ministry of Agriculture officials have already met Agriculture Executives from the affected counties in efforts to strengthen ground operations ahead of expected hatching.

“Locusts in some of the counties, including Marsabit, have started copulating and during this time, their effects on vegetation will be negligible,” an officer who sought anonymity told the Nation.

THARAKA NITHI

In Tharaka constituency, Tharaka-Nithi County, residents are worried about a potential famine after locusts decimated crops and pasture in the last two weeks.

The insects had been hopping from one village to another in Tharaka North Sub-County but by Saturday, they had spread to almost the entire constituency with the new areas including Turima division.

They have already destroyed hundreds of hectares of crops including millet, sorghum, green grams and maize among other crops.

Tharaka-Nithi County leaders led by Senator Kithure Kindiki and Tharaka MP Gitonga Murugara are now appealing to Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya to provide aircraft for aerial spraying as well as compensate farmers who have lost everything.

Speaking during a tour of the invaded farms in Tharaka North yesterday, Prof Kindiki asked the government to be more serious in handling the issue or else the affected regions face famine.

“Both people and livestock have been left with nothing to feed on in Tharaka constituency and many other parts of the county,” said Prof Kindiki.

Mr Murugara said two weeks ago that the insects had been sprayed twice but the chemicals ran out of stock and had to be procured from Japan.

However, he said he had been informed that the chemicals had been delivered and asked CS Munya to dispatch the aircraft without any further delay.

He said the locusts had buried millions of eggs in the soil and, if they are not sprayed immediately, they will hatch, spelling total disaster.