Kenya to Receive AfDB Millions in War on Locusts

Kenya is among nine countries expected to benefit from a Sh150 million African Development Bank (AfDB) emergency grant to stop the spread of desert locusts.

The AfDB board of directors approved the funds on Wednesday. They said the swarms threaten livelihoods and food security in the Horn of Africa.

The money, to be channelled through the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (Igad), will be used to control the spread of the pests, prevent potential next-generation swarms and conduct impact assessment and monitoring to enhance preparedness and general awareness.

Some of the funds would also be allocated to administrative costs in Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Uganda and Tanzania.

The AfDB board of directors acknowledged that Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia have been particularly hit hard by the dreaded insects, adding that new swarms may emerge in the coming weeks.

PROTECT LIVELIHOODS

The regional bloc has been given the mandate to mobilise resources to help fight the insects on behalf of the African Union.

"Igad is working with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (Fao), which is leading the coordination of development partner support to provide desert locust invasion control, safeguard livelihoods and promote early recovery of the affected households in the East and Horn of Africa. Fao will act as the executing agency for the grant," AfDB said in a statement.

Locusts have invaded more than 20 counties, threatening food security in a country already struggling with shrinking reserves occasioned by the quelea birds invasion, irregular weather patterns, inadequate rainfall and the fall armyworm challenge last year.

The swarms have destroyed thousands of acres of farmland and other vegetation in Samburu, Marsabit, Laikipia, Isiolo and several other counties.

New swarms have being seen in Nakuru, Laikipia and other regions in the past few weeks.

In Samburu, the swarms have grown to 460 from 164 in just two weeks. According to the County Special Programmes Department, a record 235 swarms have been spotted in the region, making it the worst invasion in the country for more than 70 years.

COVID-19 PANDEMIC

The Ministry of Agriculture launched the aerial spraying of locusts in late January, but the exercise was put on hold when the first case of coronavirus was reported in the country.

Last week, Agriculture Principal Secretary Hamadi Boga said procurement of chemicals has been affected, given that many countries have closed their borders as the war on Covid-19 intensifies.

Fao says more than 70,000 hectares of vegetation in Kenya has been destroyed by the pests.

The agency adds that the swarms have devastated more than 30,000 hectares in Ethiopia, including coffee and tea plantations.

The two crops account for 30 per cent of the country's exports. The locusts have destroyed land under pasture, maize, cowpeas, beans and other crops.

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