The recent locust swarms affecting Kenya reflect the worrying outcomes of climate change and pose a serious threat to our food security.
Food security is a central component of the Big Four Agenda, which is one of the main development programmes that President Uhuru Kenyatta committed to during the beginning of his second term.
This is the worst locust outbreak that Africa has seen for seventy years, and could plunge us into a food shortage crisis the likes of which we have not seen. According to the United Nations, their ability to reproduce so rapidly means that the locusts are capable of growing by up to 500 times their current number.
A typical locust swarm can contain up to a whopping 150 million locusts in a single square kilometre. On average, a swarm can damage the amount of food crops that are sufficient to feed 2,500 people in a single day.
The pestilence is a result of climate change, not necessarily caused by the actions of East African countries. Nevertheless, we are the ones that must deal with it, and doing so in as efficient and ecological way as possible is critical. It is a time sensitive issue, but the government must think fast.
2019 was one of the rainiest years ever in East Africa. This happened due to rapidly warming water in the Indian Ocean off of our eastern coast. Last year saw more tropical cyclones than ever off Africa’s coasts. All of this rain water has caused more greenery than the region is accustomed to. As a result, the locusts swarms have more than what is normal to feed on and can keep on reproducing at worrying speed.
Between 2003 and 2005, countries in Northern Africa were forced to spend more than $500 million to control a similar outbreak. Nonetheless, it still cost them more than $2.5 billion in harvest losses according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).
In order to prevent the further spread of the outbreak, the government is using satellite images to analyse the situation before conducting aerial spraying.
In Kenya, the people of Mandera, Wajir, Marsabit, Meru and Isiolo are most affected. As the farmers in these counties take a hit, our agriculture industry as a whole is expected to suffer. Many areas of ecological significance are also affected, including the Lorian Swamp, River Ewaso Ng’iro North, River Tana, River Daua, Meru National Park and Marsabit National Park.
In the meantime, the government has been stockpiling pesticides and administering them across affected regions in order to mitigate the spread of locusts as much as possible. This is undoubtedly a crisis of international proportions, and we must each do our part to stop it as much as possible in the future.
While both high and low income countries continue to over consume and not deal with waste responsibly, it is more important than ever that Kenyans set an example for how to responsibly engage with our natural habitat. Since East Africa is one of the regions most affected by climate change, we must be at the forefront of fighting it.
That is a notion that seems long ago recognised and understood by the Kenyan President. As one of the first countries in the world to ban plastic bags, Kenya has reduced the amount of plastic waste that we consume every time we buy groceries.
But more than that, the President has also raised awareness of how dire the situation has become, and encouraged other nations around the world to follow our lead. Just a few short years ago, Kenyans were unaware of the harmful effects of using cheap plastic and discarding it without a second thought. This is the same plastic that pollutes our oceans, chokes our animals and gathers on the side of our roads - an eyesore to our country’s natural beauty.
Now Kenyans are more conscious than ever of how the products we use can affect the environment. While an ordinary citizen is not able to do anything drastic to stop the current locus crisis, we are all now aware of the steps we can take in our daily lives to allow the earth to exist as God intended.
Food insecurity is a real threat, so let us all support the President in ensuring that the threat is eliminated.
Mr Mugolla comments on topical socio-political issues. [email protected]