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Stem deadly locust threat

Friday March 27 2020

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The twin effects of the coronavirus epidemic and the desert locust invasion portend a bleak future for the country.

Just when some optimism was beginning to emerge, with the locusts having slowed down in recent weeks, the Covid-19 scourge emerged.

And as the authorities have focused fully on dealing with the epidemic, the locusts are back, wreaking havoc again.

Farmers in the South Rift region are grappling with swarms that could cause major losses and hunger.

In what smacks of an evil conspiracy of natural calamities, some respite in the aerial spraying of the insects due to the coronavirus crisis seems to have created an opening for this fresh onslaught.

Large swarms have been spotted in Nakuru County, and the Samburu County government has also raised the alarm about the pests.


The voracious insects have also been sighted in Laikipia and Nyandarua.


According to experts, this is the heaviest locust infestation in Kenya in 70 years and the worst outbreak in 25 years for Somalia and Ethiopia.

By January, data from the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation indicated that nearly 110,000 hectares had been ravaged by the desert locusts in the Horn of Africa.

In mid-February, some 17 Kenyan counties had been affected, with many more under threat if the current swarms are not stopped from laying eggs and producing another generation.

These extremely destructive insects can travel up to 150 kilometres per day and can be quite hard to contain as they devour crops and other vegetation, laying fields bare.

As farmers begin to plant crops in preparation for the long rains from April to June, many fear that a larger, new generation could emerge and wipe out the next harvest.

The spawning of this second generation must be stopped to avert a full-blown crisis.