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Farmers advised to continue planting despite locust invasion

Government spokesman Col. (Rtd) Cyrus Oguna with FAO deputy country representative and head of programes Hamisi Williams after the aerial survey of locust infested areas in Meru on February 18, 2021. [David Gichuru,Standard]

Farmers have been urged to continue planting despite the desert locust invasion reported in ASAL counties.

Government Spokesperson Col. (Rtd) Cyrus Oguna told Spice FM that though the locusts cannot be stopped, there is a need to limit the impact of the invasion.

Part of the government’s plan is to have a joint taskforce with neighbours on how best to tackle the locusts, a mechanism he says is supported by IGAD and the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation.

Science journalist Philip Keitany added that since the locusts keep moving, it is paramount that farmers continue planting.

Col. (Rtd) Oguna on his part said FAO and the World Bank Group have initiated projects to support farmers such as training on modern agricultural practices, proper use of fertilizer as well as quality seeds.

He added that the farmers most affected are those in ASAL counties such as Isiolo, Laikipia and Meru.

Weather, Col. (Rtd) Oguna said, is an important factor in the fight against the invasion seeing as the locusts follow patterns on corridors that are influenced by the win direction.

Some 1,670 scouts have been dispatched in counties affected by locusts, distributed according to the threat in each county.

They ensure any time the desert locusts come in, an alarm is raised and the locusts are tracked and attacked.

“The government is looking at aerial spray of pesticide but still maintain safe doses for the environment and farmers.”

The pesticide used does not kill the insects immediately. Instead, the locusts will be weakened after a period of 72 hours.

Col. (Rtd) Oguna was questioned on the safety of communities that treat locusts as a delicacy.

He said the majority of such communities are not in the ASAL areas which are hardest hit by the desert locust invasion. In the same breath, he warned residents against eating the locusts.

The first phase of the invasion had bigger swarms measuring 40 by 60km, but the swarms in the second phase are much smaller, Col. (Rtd) Oguna said.

Swarms can travel up to 150km (93 miles) a day and can contain between 40-80 million locusts per square kilometre.

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