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FAO warns of new locust invasion threat in Kenya

New swarms of locusts in southern Ethiopia and northern Kenya are spreading further in the eastern Africa region, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has warned.

According to FAO, the immature swarms are migrating southwards from breeding areas in eastern Ethiopia and central Somalia to southern Ethiopia and northern Kenya with reports that a few immature swarms had reached Mwanga district in northeast Tanzania on January 8, 2021.

“In Kenya, immature swarms continue to arrive and spread throughout the north. So far, swarms are present in four counties (Wajir, Garissa, Marsabit and, most recently, Isiolo). Breeding continues, and hopper bands are present in the southeast near Taita Taveta and along the coast,” FAO said.

A swarm of locusts flying over Kanam village, Turkana. FAO expresses concerns over spread of locusts in Turkana County. [Peter Ochieng, Standard]

The agency warned that the dry conditions in some areas where the swarms are arriving will hasten the rate at which they will disperse throughout southern Ethiopia and northern Kenya.

“There is a moderate risk that a few swarms could reach central Kenya and perhaps the southwest as well as northeast Tanzania, eastern Uganda, and southeast South Sudan during January. Once swarms arrive in favourable areas, they will mature and lay eggs that will hatch and cause hopper bands to form during February and March,” FAO said.

Desert Locusts are considered the most destructive migratory pest in the world, devouring large areas of crops as well as pastures for livestock.

The first wave of desert locusts hit in 2020, leaving a trail of destruction, particularly worsening food insecurity in some parts of the country.

And in August, FAO said the desert locust infestation in Kenya was under control, applauding Kenya’s significant efforts in fighting the desert locusts. Kenya stood out among the countries that had posted major milestones in the region.

Kenya’s Mandera, Meru, Turkana and Isiolo counties were the most affected in the first wave.

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