Desert locust plague in northern Kenya could spiral out of control

Desert locust plague in northern Kenya could spiral out of control
Desert locust plague in northern Kenya could spiral out of control

A new wave of Desert Locust outbreaks, which are currently destroying crops and pastures in northern Kenya, are threatening to spiral out of control, spreading to more than 15 counties in the country.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has reported juvenile flocks in the northern and central districts, and in Kilifi district on the upper coast.

There are several small flocks of immature individuals from previous breeding in the coastal area near Lamu and probably in the surrounding areas in southern Somalia.

But since many flocks are very mobile, the same swarm can be seen several times. Some have been seen in parts of the Rift Valley region, the country's bread basket.

Locust swarms now threaten the livelihoods of millions of people in Kenya, as conflicts in Yemen, Somalia and northern Ethiopia make it difficult for FAO to control the breeding and movement of pests. FAO attributes the emergence of locusts to favorable breeding conditions in these countries.

“We have a second wave due to favorable weather conditions for breeding in Ethiopia and Somalia,” said Hamisi Williams, FAO Assistant Representative for Kenya.

“Yemen seems like a gateway to the Horn of Africa because when the southerly winds start to blow, the locusts cross the Red Sea to the Horn of Africa,” said Mr Williams.

“Control measures, including aerial spraying and mapping of nesting sites, have been hampered by the fighting in Yemen, which is one of the largest breeding grounds for the desert locust,” said an FAO spokesman.

Flocks can fly with the wind up to 150 kilometers per day, and a swarm per square kilometer can eat as much food as 35,000 people per day.

In the Horn of Africa, juvenile flocks continue to migrate south from breeding areas in eastern Ethiopia and central Somalia to southern Ethiopia and northern Kenya.

In Ethiopia, immature flocks concentrate along the eastern side of the Harar Highlands in the Oromiya region as they move into the southern regions of the country, including the southern parts of the Rift Valley. There are also cross-border movements in the Jijiga area and northwest Somalia and along the southern border with Kenya.