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Turkana residents say starvation imminent after locusts invade farms

Thursday June 04 2020
turka

Ms Naomi Emuria on June 3, 2020 inspects her crops at Aminatoi Nazarene Irrigation Scheme in Turkana County which have been destroyed by locusts. Residents are now staring at possible starvation due to the invasion. PHOTO | SAMMY LUTTA | NATION MEDIA GROUP

By SAMMY LUTTA

Residents of the seven sub-counties of Turkana are staring at a looming starvation after millions of locusts invaded farms and grazing fields.

The gregarious-phase locust nymphs are feeding on both pasture and food crops along their way.

The locusts are yellow in colour, wingless and are acting collectively, forming marching bands.

On Wednesday the Nation witnessed the destructive pests at Aminatoi Nazarene Irrigation Scheme where they fed on maturing crops that include collard greens, cowpeas, okra, butternut and spinach as farmers watch in disbelief.

HUGE LOSS

"I have suffered a huge loss on my half acre portion where I had planned to start harvesting spinach, okra and collard greens next week for sale at Lodwar fresh produce market that has insufficient supply of vegetables due to the Covid-19 pandemic," Ms Naomi Emuria said.

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Ms Emuria said that the locusts completely fed on all the leaves, with her watermelons remaining in the farm without leaves.

Mr Moses Ekutan, a herder, said that his goats and sheep had diarrhoea after feeding on locust eggs in pasture and contaminated water.

"Since January, locust infestation has been a menace in our county and it can result into a devastating drought if not fully eliminated," Mr Ekutan said.

DECLARE NATIONAL DISASTER

Loima MP Jeremiah Lomorukai said the county has become a conducive home for locusts with every major town centre like Kainuk, Lokichar, Kerio, Loima, Kakuma, Lokitaung and Kibish and their outskirts all having been invaded.

“The government must declare the locusts’ invasion a national disaster because large tracts of pasture and irrigation schemes have been adversely affected. If not well controlled, they will migrate to neighbouring counties," Mr Lomorukai said.

He said that elders, especially at the Kenya-Uganda border, have embarked on eradicating the locusts as a priority.

"About 80 per cent of residents in the county are pastoralists. When pasture is destroyed the livestock will starve to death," the MP said.

MUNYA TOUR

Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya, who toured the county on Saturday to assess the impact of locusts control through aerial spraying, announced plans to incorporate National Youth Service officers to conduct ground spraying.

He said that 200 NYS officers will work with the county government to conduct ground spraying on at least 100 mapped sites that are highly invaded by locusts.

He said Turkana will benefit from six vehicles mounted with sprayers and an additional helicopter.

Residents asked the State to urgently intensify locust control by quickly responding to their distress call.

The government, with support from partners such as Food and Agriculture Organisation, has already controlled locust in 23 counties.

Turkana, Laikipia, Samburu and Marsabit are still battling with the infestation.

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