Alert over renewed desert locust swarms heading into West Africa

Saturday June 27 2020

A Turkana farmer shoos away hopper bands of

A Turkana farmer shoos away hopper bands of desert locust damaging her maize crops in Kalemngorok, Turkana County, Kenya on June 3, 2020. PHOTO | LUIS TATO | AFP 

The EastAfrican
By The EastAfrican
More by this Author

Kenya’s Ministry of Agriculture has warned that desert locusts remain a threat in three counties as the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) cautions that the swarms could soon find their way to West Africa.

Also, the FAO has now placed South Sudan, Ethiopia, Sudan, Pakistan and India on high alert during the next four weeks, says West Africa should take precautionary measures and preparatory steps to battle the locusts.

The bulk of swarm formation is likely to occur during the next two weeks followed by a decline in July.

“Locusts remain a major threat in Kenya’s Turkana, Marsabit and Samburu counties,” said Prof Hamadi Boga, Principal Secretary of the State Department for Agricultural Research in the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Irrigation.

In his weekly briefing on Wednesday, Prof Boga observed that while the situation remains precarious, another four counties were counting their losses.

“Locusts have affected crops and plants in Tharaka Nithi, Makueni, Embu and Meru counties. The Red Cross is assessing the damage to determine who has been affected,” said Prof Boga.
He warned that the fight against the locusts was not yet over as the insect’s migratory lifestyle remains unpredictable and dangerous to food security.

Advertisement

Without expedited preventative measures, the swarms could migrate from East Africa to West Africa.

“The locusts are now moving to Pakistan, India, South Sudan, Somalia, South Sudan and even Ethiopia in large numbers. They are likely to move to West Africa if they are not fully contained,” warned Prof Boga.

Worst ever invasion

Recent forecasts by FAO have indicated a risk of locust invasion in West Africa from June 2020.

In Sudan, some rains have fallen so far in South Darfur and South Kordofan, and no locusts are present except for isolated adults in the Nile Valley.

If the rains are not sufficient, then the invading swarms are likely to continue to eastern Chad and migrate westwards across the Sahel of West Africa.

Thus, from Northwest Kenya, some swarms could reach the eastern part of the Sahel and continue westwards from Chad to Mauritania.

This threat should decline progressively during the next four weeks.

“Many countries now being hit by swarms of the pests have not seen locusts in recent memory and do not have the expertise to deal with them,” said Cyril Ferrand, head of the FAO’s resilience team in East Africa.

“This is the worst locust invasion we have seen in our generation,” says Sahal Farah of Docol, an International Rescue Committee partner organisation.Some of the swarms will take about a week to cross South Sudan to reach South Kordofan and South Darfur while others will move north to east and northern Ethiopia.

Advertisement