FAO warns of second locust invasion wave

Kenya may have ducked a major food security crisis this year following the invasion of the desert locusts that started early in the year, though the crisis has been recurring.

The Food and Agricultural Organisation, however, warns that danger still lies ahead, with the country set to experience another wave of invasion as the year comes to a close.

The UN agency noted that efforts by governments in the region, as well as non-governmental organisations, had helped save millions of tonnes of cereals that would have been devoured by the locusts.

In an update this week, FAO warned that the region still faces the locust threat. In Kenya, there are swarms spotted in north eastern region while others are migrating from Somalia and Ethiopia.

“At least, one small mature swarm from Somalia arrived near Mandera in the northeast. Hatching occurred in north Samburu County and third instar hopper bands were present,” said FAO in a November 9 update.

The desert locusts’ invasion, the worst for Kenya in 70 years, was expected to result in a major threat to food security in the region.

FAO, however, said fast action by governments and NGOs had averted food insecurity, saving huge farmlands and pastures from being destroyed by the locust swarms through surveillance and treatment.

“A massive humanitarian disaster has been averted,” said Keith Cressman, FAO's senior locust forecasting officer, referring to efforts that different governments together with donor organisation employed in fighting the locust invasion.

He noted that over 1.1 million hectares of land in 10 countries in Eastern Africa have been treated for locust infestation since January. “When you add in locust control efforts outside of East Africa and Yemen, 2.3 million hectares of land have been controlled this year,” he said.

“These operations have prevented the loss of 2.3 million tonnes of cereal - enough to feed more than 15 million people a year - in countries already hard hit by acute food insecurity and poverty. And our efforts have blunted impacts to an estimated 1.1 million pastoralist families, as well.”

FAO noted while the threat of infestation remains, the countries in the region are in a stronger position to handle infestations than they were earlier this year.

Other than improved human resource capacity, there are also pesticides available as well as surveillance equipment that include aircraft and ground vehicles.

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Desert Locust FAO