Planting season greeted by news that insects have landed in several farms in Elgeyo Marakwet County.
A swarm of desert locusts have returned to parts of North Rift, causing panic among farmers more than a month after the insects left the region.
Maize farmers across the region who are currently planting the crop are worried for the germinating plants after swarms of locusts landed in several farms in Kobuswo, Kaptabuk and Chebiemit areas in Elgeyo Marakwet County, causing panic.
Swarms were also spotted in Kondabilet near the high maize producing area of Moiben as well as Keituren and Chesongoch areas in Marakwet East, where planting is ongoing.
Earlier last month, the locusts that had invaded Elgeyo Marakwet, Uasin Gishu, Nandi and West Pokot vanished only to now unexpectedly return, settling in several places.
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In Kobuswo, the locusts reportedly fed on kales in a vegetable farm in the area.
Jane Kiptoo, a farmer who bore the brunt of ravenous desert locusts, said she fears the insects may wipe her entire vegetable farm.
Ms Kiptoo, who also plants maize and beans, said she was shocked that the locusts made a return after they invaded the area during the dry season in February.
“We are surprised that they are back. We thought they were gone and our crops are safe. My biggest worry is that they return to feed on my vegetables. My maize and beans are also about to germinate and any destruction will mean my family will have no food,” she said.
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She asked the national and county governments to kill the desert locusts before they cause more damage.
Reports at the Elgeyo Marakwet County Department of Agriculture indicate that the desert locusts entered the county through Baringo in the Kerio Valley belt before pitching camp at Rimoi Game Reserve.
The insects later migrated to Uasin Gishu and West Pokot counties.
Moses Kipchirchir, another farmer, said the locusts may pose a threat to food security.
“We have planted some short-term crops including beans and potatoes that we expect to harvest in three months. Any destruction by locusts will cause a big shortage of food at a time when we are facing the coronavirus pandemic,” Kipchirchir said.
Elgeyo Marakwet Agriculture Executive Committee Anne Kibosia said the locusts that landed in the county on Saturday may have been those that hatched from eggs laid by the first group of the insects before flying to neighbouring counties.
Ms Kibosia however downplayed fears that the desert locusts may destroy crops, saying agricultural extension officers are monitoring the situation and will provide daily briefings on the level of destruction and movement of the locusts.
A World Bank-funded programme aimed at spraying desert locusts was interrupted by the fight against Covid-19.
“For now, we can’t report major destruction of crops. Our problem and fears will come when crops germinate. We have trained our teams and they are ready to combat the infestation,” Kibosia said.
Jane Jerop, an agricultural extension officer in Arror where the locusts had entered the county in February, said they have received warnings of another wave of desert locust infestation in a month’s time.
“We have received reports that the desert locusts will be back again next month. We have not spotted locusts in this area in recent days but we are monitoring the situation,” she said.
In late February, Agricultural Development Corporation Regional Manager Maurice Cherengony said the locusts were spotted in Suam Orchards and Chepchoiana ADC farm in KItale but did not cause major destruction to crops.
The locusts also invaded maize and wheat producing areas of Lower Moiben, Sugut, Kabomoi, Chebororwa, Seretyo, Barsombe and Karandili in Uasin Gishu County.
But Uasin Gishu County Executive Member (CECM) in charge of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries Samuel Yego said the locusts did not cause any major destruction, since the planting season had not begun.