National Assembly Leader of Majority Aden Duale has accused Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri of inaction as swarms of desert locusts invaded North Eastern Kenya, causing untold destruction to vegetation.
Speaking just days after politicians from the region appealed to the government to intervene, Mr Duale said the situation on the ground was dire.
“This is a serious crisis that must be addressed urgently. Mr Kiunjuri and his principal secretary should not continue to be on holiday as the people in North Eastern suffer. So far the two have not spoken, they have not done anything to write home about,” Mr Duale, who is also Garissa Township MP, said.
Mandera’s six constituencies have been invaded by the insects which have spread to Tarbaj, Wajir East and Wajir West constituencies in Wajir County and parts of Garissa County.
“God gave has given us rain that saw vegetation sprout and now the locusts have descended on it fomenting danger to our own food security as well as our animals,” Mr Duale said.
According to Mr Duale, if nothing is done, the locusts will spread to other parts of the country and destroy crops.
The desert locusts caused a scare in Ethiopia before the government moved in swiftly and implemented measures such as aerial chemical sprays.
While some were annihilated, the others spread to North Eastern Kenya more than 10 days ago.
The delays on the part of the government has seen locals resort to the laborious and ineffective manual interventions to deal with the insects.
“The CS and his PS must be called to action. The ministry is always quiet when there are issues affecting the country,” Mr Duale said.
However, Mr Kiunjuri noted that the government is doing all it can to address the situation.
“I want to tell the residents of North Eastern Kenya that our team is already on the ground to deal with the locusts. There should be no worry,” Mr Kiunjuri said.
The CS said that with the region being prone to security threats, the team from the ministry is required to get regular briefs from the security team on the ground before conducting aerial sprays after monitoring and establishing the insects’ breeding grounds.
The government may also deploy Unmanned Aerial Vehicles also known as drones, to collect data- high resolution imagery of green, vegetated areas potentially affected by locusts.
Biological locust control measures like the use of natural predators such as wasps, birds and reptiles could also be the antidote due to the harmful effects of insecticides used to control them. Mr Kiunjuri said desert locusts are not common in Kenya.
Their origin is at the Red Sea region. Countries such as Ethiopia, Eretria, Yemen and Sudan among others have been affected.
The locusts are a collection of swarming phases of certain species of short-horned grasshoppers and can live between three to six months and up to 10 months with favourable environment.
The last time they were reported in Kenya was in 2007, in Mandera and Wajir. Food and Agriculture Organization notes that locust invasion is swift and incredibly destructive.
They are a major global pest around the world threatening the agricultural industry and affecting the livelihood of one tenth of the world population who occupy about 20 per cent of the land on earth.
A swarm can contain up to 150 million insects per square kilometre and can migrate up to about 130 kilometres in a day.
FAO estimates that 500,000 locusts can weigh approximately one tonne, eating as much as 10 elephants or 25 camels or even 2,500 people.
A global early warning and preventive control system against desert locusts has been in place for more than half a century, representing the world's oldest migratory pest warning system.