By Reuters & The Nation
Swarms of desert locusts have spread from Ethiopia and Somalia into eastern and northern Kenya, posing a threat to food production and grazing land, its Agriculture Minister Mwangi Kiunjuri said.
The locusts began crossing into Kenya around December 28, initially destroying pastures in semi-arid counties mainly occupied by herder communities.
They have since spread to the counties of Garissa, Isiolo and Samburu to the south and west, Kiunjuri said.
“We recognise that the pest invasion, and the potential to spread rapidly to other counties pose unprecedented threat to food security and livelihood in the country,” the Minister said.
The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said in a January 6 update that while swarms of locusts in Somalia are expected to mature and breed there this month, there is a low risk than those in Kenya would breed.
FAO said there is also a risk that swarms could move into Kenya’s neighbours Uganda and South Sudan.
Last month, the FAO said locusts had already destroyed over 70,000 hectares (175,000 acres) of farmland in Somalia and Ethiopia, also threatening food supplies in both countries in the worst locust invasion in 70 years.
Conflict and chaos in much of Somalia make spraying pesticide by airplane — which the FAO called the “ideal control measure” — impossible, the agency said last month.
On Sunday, the locusts also reached Riandira village in Kirinyaga County that invaded farms belonging to two farmers.
The residents are worried that the voracious feeders may spread to other farms in the region and wreak havoc on maize, rice, tea and coffee plantations.
“Locusts are now in my farm. They are feeding on my trees and they are spreading fast,” said Isaack Ndung’u, a farmer.
He said they first landed on the fence on Sunday evening and started spreading to the maize farm.
Another farmer, Sospeter Kariuki, narrated how the locusts arrived in swarms, causing panic among the residents.