Kenya: Worry As New Swarms of Desert Locusts Roam Turkana County

(File photo).

Huge swarms of desert locusts are hovering over the skies in Turkana County especially when it is windy after hopper bands overwhelmed control strategies and finally matured.

The more than 200 hopper bands which were two weeks ago yellow and wingless were being controlled using two surveillance helicopters, two aircraft for aerial spraying, four vehicles mounted with sprayers and several youth using knapsack sprayers.

On Friday and Saturday, the locusts darkened skies in Lodwar town and its environs.

LOCALS WORRIED

Residents have now raised concerns over the effectiveness of measures earlier put in place to control the pests since millions of hopper bands were witnessed few weeks ago.

County Desert Locusts Base Manager Gabriel Okata said that the hoppers have matured and the locusts are flying in any direction the wind blows with some swarms covering at least 160 kilometres per day.

"Some challenges were insecure but infested areas like Kapedo and Kamuge villages where pilots didn't cover during aerial spraying as well as hilly, remote and vast unoccupied areas without anyone to be relied on for information." Mr Okata said.

He said that it is becoming a challenge to eradicate the pests especially if it rains in the next two weeks as this will offer a conducive environment for laying eggs. If the eggs then hatch, he said the control teams will battle with the plague for the rest of the year.

"An additional aircraft is expected next week. National Youth Service officers deployed by the national government and 300 youth recruited by the county government are assisting in tracing the locations and at the same time conducting ground spraying." Mr Okata said.

FAMINE LOOMS

Turkana residents are staring at a devastating famine as the insects descend on large tract of grazing fields for their livestock and farms especially along River Turkwel.

"In our Nakuruchanait village in Turkwel Ward bands of yellow wingless nymphs in their millions fed on shrubs meant for our livestock and crops on our farms two weeks ago. They have matured and have come back to completely feed on any remaining green plant." Mr Rogo Ebei narrated.

Mr Ebei said that the locusts are threatening their efforts to make the villages along River Turkwel food secure.

Turkwel Ward MCA Stephen Edukon said villages such as Napal, Natuntun, Napak, Moruase are the worst hit.

APPEAL FOR HELP

"I appeal to authorities in the county to control the insects and rescue food crops on both rain fed and irrigated farms," said Mr Edukon.

He had accompanied officials from Africare - a non-governmental organisation - to assess the conditions of irrigation schemes along the river for revival plans through an Improved Approach to Community-based Nutrition in Turkana project said.

Food and Agriculture Organisation had anticipated that stepped up control measures would be successful to eradicate the hoppers before they mature and migrate to neighbouring East African countries.

The United Nations agency warned that prior to migration, swarms will remain for a short time during which there is a considerable threat to crops and pastures in Turkana and Marsabit counties.

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