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Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Kenya Caught in Desert Locust Storm

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Kenya is under attack by a swarm of desert locusts and authorities are bringing all out all the stops to combat the infestation.

Segmented bodies with long legs, Desert Locusts, swarming the Turkana County landscape in Kenyan in the millions on a food rampage in what experts are calling the worst invasion the country has seen in 70 years. Kenya one of several countries contending with locusts in 2020.

Efficient Response

Kenya is not allowing the situation to overwhelm its population. Vitalis Juma, Control Operations Officer in Turkana county, shared the control strategy, “We wanted to control them as fast as possible before they reach instar 5 (last hopper stage) and young adults who will start again maybe copulating and laying more eggs. So, we need to control it very fast.”

Massive efforts of tandem aerial and ground operations to control and contain a second-generation of locusts, either at hopper or at swarm stage have been carried out since their arrival in February and much progress has been made.

Tobias Takavarasha, a representative in Kenya of The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), breaks down the ins and outs of the collective efforts, “We continue to monitor because locusts can go to places where they cannot easily reach and then emerge from there. So, we continue to strengthen our surveillance capacity, our control efforts and our livelihoods recovery efforts. It is a process. We have contained to a large extent what could have been a disaster.”

Continued Action

As part of the government’s action plan, hundreds of National Youth Service (NYS) volunteers have been trained in surveillance, verification and control techniques by the FAO — which has also been assisting with the infestations in the East African region since January. The organization estimates over 600,000 hectares have been controlled and half a trillion locusts already killed. Still in the thick of it

Nevertheless, the threat of possible re-infestation towards the end of the year will call for a careful and continued response as many people in the region could suffer food shortages. An unwanted and highly inopportune situation with the COVID-19 pandemic looming over the Kenyan economy as an additional factor.

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