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Locust invasion: Kenya hires experts to assess damage in counties

Wednesday March 18 2020
Locusts

A resident of Kijaci at Gatunga Ward in Tharaka Constituency, Tharaka-Nithi County, makes his way through a swarm of locusts at a farm on February 1, 2020. PHOTO | ALEX NJERU | NATION MEDIA GROUP

By GEORGE MUNENE

Kenya has appointed a consultant to assess the damage desert locusts have caused since the invasion began about three months ago.

Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya announced this on Sunday, when he came face to face with a fresh swarm in the expansive and arid Mbeere part of Embu County.

Accompanied by area Member of Parliament Muriuki Njagagua, the CS said the consultant and a team of experts will soon be dispatched to the affected counties to carry out assessments.

"We would like to know the magnitude of damage to crops so we can find ways to assist the victims," he told residents in Karambari village, Mbeere North Constituency, after visiting an affected area.

The swarms crossed into northeast Kenya on December 28, 2019 and have spread to counties including Embu, Mandera, Marsabit, Wajir, Garissa, Isiolo, Samburu, Meru, Turkana, Machakos, Kirinyaga, Tharaka-Nithi and Laikipia.

COMMITMENT

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CS Munya reiterated the government's commitment to fighting the invasion, saying there are enough chemicals and equipment, so there is no reason to panic.

While noting the danger the insects pose, he said those that have landed in Embu are mature and have started laying eggs.

"We would like to destroy the locusts and their eggs," he said and directed national and county agriculture officials to embark on strict monitoring of the insects' movements and report back immediately.

"One locust lays 160 eggs so the insects should be eliminated before they lay eggs," he said, adding that spraying should take place before they spread to other parts.

DESTRUCTION

The MP said the fresh swarm entered the county on Friday, and has already left a trail of destruction, hence the need for the government to help the people.

"Residents are crying so we are happy that the government has responded fast and that spraying is going on," he said.

Mr Njagagua informed the CS that the locusts did not spare muguka and pigeon peas.

Farmer Cecily Muthoni told Mr Munya that the insects ravaged her muguka and other crops, leaving her with nothing.

Muminji Ward Representative Newton Kariuki said the residents will starve if the government does not send food donations.

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