State says it will end locust spread in two months

An officer from the department of agriculture in Isiolo County sprays locust nymphs with chemicals. The insects hatched in millions, especially in Malachi , Kipsing, and Kom areas. [File, Standard]

The Government says it will take at least two more months to check the spread of the desert locusts in affected counties.

The Ministry of Agriculture’s Crop Production department on Monday said 17 out of the 27 affected counties are still menaced by the fast-moving insect pests that first hit Mandera and Wajir counties last December.

The department’s Administration Secretary Kello Harsama noted that 10 counties including Mandera and Wajir have reported the end of the invasion adding that others like Kitui have made significant progress.

Mr Harsama was speaking at Isiolo hotel where he opened a five-day training workshop for officials from 13 of the affected counties.

The workshop training revolves around the desert locust biology, behavior, ecology, survey (mapping), control and use of pesticides.

It was also attended by top ministry officials from the crop protection unit, Tesfayohammes Mehan of Desert Locust Control Organisation (DLCO)-East Africa and Christian Pantenius of UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

Harsama said ‘‘the desert locust invasion is still with us. We estimate that in about two months, we would be able to check the spread in the country’’.

Contrary to the perception that the fight against the spread of the deadly pests had slowed, the official added, “we have not been overshadowed (by COVID-19), we are active on the ground doing daily aerial and ground spraying and continuous training of personnel from counties’’.

He justified the need for more time ‘‘as the locusts are still laying eggs and reproducing’ before moving to other areas’’.

However, Harsama said the department has enough chemicals and equipment to stop the spread of the locusts in the country within their time limit.

‘‘It’s not safe yet, even in northeastern counties. The locusts have laid eggs and there is still a threat of more invasion especially from Somalia,’’ said Harsama.

The State, FAO, and DLCO, the administrator revealed has eight specialised planes and 10 vehicles mounted with sprayers from the ground to check the spread of the pests in the remaining affected counties.

The planes and the newly acquired special vehicles would be based in six regional control centres where it would be used to spray pesticides in the affected counties that include Baringo, Nakuru, and Nyandarua.

Most affected counties include Isiolo, Marsabit, Samburu, and Laikipia according to the department.

‘‘It is 70 years when the country was hit by the last desert locust invasion and personnel require training on the biology and behaviour of the insects, its ecology, control and even basic use of pesticides,’’ observed Harsama.

The government, he said had deployed 800 trained National Youth Service to supplement the efforts of the counties. From the training, the counties are expected to train local youth to help in ground spraying of the locusts.

‘‘As a ministry, we are happy that some counties have already trained up to 100 youth on desert locust spraying,’’ he said.

The department revealed Harsama had appealed to the Ministry of Interior to spare officials working on the control of the locusts from the dusk to dawn curfew imposed following the outbreak of coronavirus.

Speakers during the workshop said they prepare aerial and ground spraying exercise from 4 am and finish after 7 pm.