Locust invasion threatens food security in zone, says Mandera County

A man walks through area invaded by locust. [Photo: Standard]

The desert locust invasion in northern Kenya is rapidly spreading, a preliminary report has said.

The report by Mandera County’s Department of Agriculture indicates that an estimated 12,000 square kilometres of landmass had been infested in the county alone since the invasion began barely two weeks ago.

The report released on Tuesday paints a picture of destruction that threatens food security in a region that recently experienced drought and floods in quick succession.

Extent of damage

Images of leafless trees and crops illustrate the extent of damage caused by the insects.

The report shows that barely a day after the locusts were first spotted on December 28 at three sites in the county, they had spread to 20 other sites.

“These sites continued to increase by the day and an estimated 78 sites as listed in all sub-counties reported locust invasion as at January 7, 2020,” the report signed by Mandera County Director of Agriculture Benard Ogutu indicated.

Locusts invaded Mandera, Marsabit and Wajir counties two weeks ago, prompting an outcry from local leaders and residents. Desperate to deal with the invasion, residents have been banging on utensils and other metallic items, and honking motorbike horns to scare away the locusts.

The government has also deployed police officers to the region to disrupt the swarm by ‘shooting’ in the air.

At the moment, aerial spraying of the insects is ongoing in some areas in northern Kenya.

But the county government says there is an acute shortage of chemicals and equipment.

Mandera county government says in the report that it needs about 3,000 litres of chemicals to add to the 1,000 litres currently at its disposal.

It also requires 70 motorised sprayers to add to the four it had acquired, and 200 ultra-low volume sprayers to add to the current 10.

Protective gear

The county also says it needed 250 sets of protective gear to top up to the 35 it was using.

The county also needs 5,000 litres of fuel, eight pickup vehicles to be used for surveillance and control, and 30 motorcycles to access hard-to-reach areas.

“Sprayer batteries, GPS machines, antidotes and other specialised materials for locust control are required,” the report added.

The current intervention is further threatened by the conditions in the northern region, as locusts thrive in the moist sandy soils and green vegetation that come with a rainy season.

However, without adequate intervention, Mandera County warns, the damage is likely to extend to a level that will lead to a food crisis in the region, which is already classified as food insecure.

The county said it had put mitigation efforts in place, including stationing two main operational sites in Mandera and Takaba. It also said it had response teams in place.

“We have trained 18 agriculture technical staff to spearhead the control measures,” the county said in the report.