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Panic in Marsabit as locusts threaten to devour farmlands

Sunday January 05 2020
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Desert locusts invade Gurar in Wajir North. Efforts to rid the area of the insects are ongoing. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

By JACOB WALTER
By BRUHAN MAKONG

More than 50,000 hectares of farmland in Marsabit County face the threat of being decimated by desert locusts that have continued to destroy vegetation cover.

The recent invasion by locusts that originated from the neighbouring counties of Wajir and Mandera has sent more than 80 per cent of the county’s agro-pastoralist population into panic.

Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries executive Mohammed Omar told the Nation that the locusts, which came into the county through Shurr, landed on at least six roosting zones spreading over 70 kilometres from Qubi Qallo to Dogogicha in Sagante-Jaldesa.

While appealing for timely intervention by the national government, Mr Omar said the county’s farmlands and pasture zones are at grave risk, noting that within 15 minutes of their landing at Dogogicha, the insects had already decimated vast swathes of farmland.

He said the devolved unit is facing an acute shortage of spraying equipment and pesticides, adding that surveillance and mapping of roosting areas to aid in spraying had already been done.

FOOD SECURITY

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In the meantime, he urged locals to use alternative methods to battle the menace.

Mr Omar urged the government to declare the locust invasion a national disaster, saying the insects are likely to spread across other parts of East Africa.

Marsabit County director of agriculture Julius Gitu said the livelihoods of the residents, who depend mainly on agriculture and pastoralism, is at stake as crops such as maize, beans and cowpeas now risk being completely wiped out.

“The county received good rains and the vegetation cover and crop production have been promising, but the locust invasion risks wiping out farms and pasture,” Mr Gitu said.

He said that the locusts will wipe out grasslands and farmlands if no timely interventions are put in place. ''This will hurt crop, beef and milk production,'' he said.

The ripple effect will be reduced household incomes, and cases of malnutrition.

Mr Wario Jilloh, a farmer at Badasa, expressed fear over his family’s livelihood. He said the insects landed on his maize farm for about 15 minutes and wreaked havoc.

ALL SUB-COUNTIES AFFECTED

He appealed to both the national and county governments to act swiftly and cushion farmers against huge losses.

Mr Jilloh said the locusts were wiping out pasture meant for domestic animals.

Meanwhile, in Wajir County, the second colony of the locusts - which invaded Kutulo in Tarbaj from Somalia on Friday - has finally been repelled to the neighbouring Eldas Sub-County.

According to Mr Hassan Gure, an agricultural official, the swarm of locusts that had invaded the area for the second time was three times bigger than the first group that invaded the area four days ago.

This means that since the invasion six days ago, all the six sub-counties in Wajir have been affected.

According to reports, the locusts were repelled via Kutulo-Wargadud, Elben and Haragal locations in Tarbaj and they moved to Eldas at 7.20 pm Friday.

Mr Gure said the insects had also invaded Dadajabula in Wajir South. Operations to repel them are still ongoing.

Mr Gure described the invasion as “serious”.

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