Kenya, Uganda Alert Over Swarms of Locusts Sighted Across Turkana

Farmers try to scare away desert locusts (file photo).

Kenya has announced ground and aerial control operations against hopper bands that were sighted in northwest Turkana and Marsabit.

Ministry of Agriculture Principal Secretary Prof Hamadi Boga, in the State Department for Crop Development and Agriculture Research announced the spraying of the hoppers that were seen in Turkana last Sunday, and which are likely to spread into Eastern Uganda.

The PS who witnessed the spraying of locusts in Samburu last month said the exercise will continue based on location of the locusts which are now in early stage of maturing.

It is estimated that more than 30,000 people in Samburu have been affected.

"The new swarm of locusts that was seen in Turkana this week is in the hopper state. These are young, immature locusts referred to as hoppers or nymphs. There are not easy to spot as they breed in areas with little human population," said Prof Boga on Tuesday.

"We sighted a fresh swarm in Turkana this week. Most of those areas where they breed are uninhabited so we are always on the look out to manage them while they are still in that developmental phase," Prof Boga told The EastAfrican.

"We have a regional approach to the issue. So if we manage them from our side (West/Northern Kenya) they will not find their way into Uganda."

The PS's remarks come a few days after Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) warned that the first generation of desert locusts in Kenya has matured and was ready to breed.

FAO's May 26 update said the situation in East Africa remains alarming as more swarms form and mature in Ethiopia and northern and central Kenya.

HARVEST SEASON

"Kenya, Ethiopia, and Somalia continue to face an unprecedented threat to food security and livelihoods. New swarms from current breeding will form from mid-June, coinciding with the start of the harvest season," said Qu Dongyu, Director-General of FAO.

"There is a risk that swarms will migrate to the summer breeding areas on both sides of the Indo-Pakistan border, Sudan and perhaps West Africa."

Despite control operations, recent heavy rains have created ideal conditions for the pest's reproduction in several countries. Juveniles have become voracious adults in June just as farmers begin to harvest, compounding an already bleak food security situation.

In Uganda, at least one swarm was seen in the northeast district of Kaaborg that was probably moving towards South Sudan. Scattered gregarious adults are present near the South Sudan border at a few places in Blue Nile, While Nile and South Kordofan states.

A few adults persist in the Nile Valley north of Kordofan.

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WINGED MENACE

Desert locusts normally mature and start laying eggs from two to four months. This means the first generation of locusts bred in Samburu, Isiolo, Wajir, Mandera and Marsabit counties and could begin mass breeding. Spraying with insecticides at this stage is effective and can greatly reduce numbers. FAO handed over six vehicles funded by USAID and equipped with vehicle-mounted sprayers to the Ministry of Agricultural Development of Somaliland in Hargeisa on May 20.

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