Swarms of locusts destroy crops in West Pokot County

A locust on a cotton crop in  Kerio Valley, Elgeyo Marakwet County. [Christopher Kipsang, Standard]

A new wave of locust swarms is spreading in West Pokot County which could precipitate a food crisis.

The pests have ravaged acres of maize and beans in Pokot North and Pokot Central sub-counties, causing panic among residents.

The locusts have invaded Weiwei and Lomut wards in Sigor Constituency, attacking crops such as peanuts, mangoes and all other vegetation around the area.

Farmers have resorted to fighting the insects using twigs but their efforts have not succeeded in stopping the destruction of pasture and food crops by the locust swarms.

Speaking to The Standard at the weekend, West Pokot Agriculture and Livestock Executive Alfred Longronyang assured residents that the administration is moving with speed to curb the situation.

He said they are planning an aerial spray this week, although acres of maize and beans plantations have already been destroyed.

"Crops such as peanuts, mango trees and all other vegetation around the area have already been ravaged, the locusts keep migrating from one place to another. Acres of beans have been ravaged. We are likely to face food shortage in the county because at first, we experienced unreliable rains. They have already threatened the vulnerable community with devastating hunger,” he said.

Spraying aeroplanes

He said they need more spraying aeroplanes to supplement the agriculture officers on the ground who are already using knapsack sprayers to contain the situation.

He added that most farmers had expected a bumper harvest after the government supplied them with maize seeds and subsidised fertiliser for the current season. The official noted locals in the pastoral region were changing from livestock keeping to cash crop farming.

Priscilla Cheptoo, a farmer from Siseyi, lamented that most of the grass and shrubs in the arid parts have been ravaged by the locusts.

"Our livestock could starve. The locusts have eaten everything and are now ravaging vegetation before moving to other places," said Cheptoo.

Thomes Wasike, a coordinator in the emergency locusts response project, who led the team to spray and offer insecticides to locals, said the outbreak could be due to climate change.

He promised that they are ready to control the situation and urged locals to take precautions before applying insecticides to avoid unnecessary health problems.

Wasike added that they have set up a control team in the area to coordinate with locals to ensure the area is free from locusts.