By Tabitha Oeri

Kenya Government is working around the clock to contain desert locusts that have invaded most parts of the country. Currently 15 counties have been invaded by the locusts especially those bordering Ethiopia and Somalia.

According to Peter Munya, the Cabinet Secretary for Agriculture, first wave of desert locust entered Kenya early in 2020 through Ethiopia and Somalia invading the counties at the borders before spreading to other parts.

The fifteen counties include Wajir, Marsabit, Garissa, Mandera, Isiolo,Tana River, Lamu, Kilifi, Taita Taveta, , Samburu, Laikipia, Meru, Tharaka Nithi, , Kitui and Machakos.

Munya admitted that the government had challenges in containing the first swarm of invasion due to Covid-19 lockdown disruptions. He said all plans of spraying had to stop as it was not easy to access chemicals and strict Covid-19 health protocols.

However, the second wave of locust invasion in mid-November 2020 has been tackled successfully to date. Munya affirmed at least 80% success on the control process after treating 66 swarms out of the 75 swarm invasion locations.

“We have managed to cover a total area of 19,100 hectares despite the Covid-19 pandemic disruptions that had earlier slowed down the process for three weeks,” CS Munya disclosed. “Government is well prepared with adequate resources to combat the desert locusts, so Kenyans need not to panic,” he added.

The CS asserted the government’s commitment saying 21 vehicles mounted with sprayers for ground control operations with 9 aircrafts for surveillance and spray have been deployed with 3 on standby.

“Government has acquired sufficient pesticides and more will be ordered if necessary. With the rise in demand however, this is inevitable as there has been a supply of up to 20,000 liters worth of chemicals to various affected areas in the country every week,” CS for Agriculture affirmed.

Munya also said the government has trained over 500 National Youth Service (NYS) personnel to help with the management operations in various places. Another 500 NYS personnel are yet to be deployed in the next two months to ensure enough manpower for effective management of the operations.

Munya stated that the government established eight strategic control bases located in Isiolo, Marsabit, Masinga, Garissa, Turkana (Lodwar), Mandera, Lamu (Witu) and Taita Taveta for coordination and management operations towards the desert locusts.

He however, said as per survey, static winds keep the locusts behind the Ethiopian mountains in Ethiopia the epicenter of locusts and that has helped slow down the spread to Kenya.

Nonetheless, the Kenya government is not relenting on the battle against locust invasions as it has moved to the frontline border points. The neighboring countries are concentrating on other issues in their respective states.

All these work by Ministry of Agriculture is in collaboration with other agencies such as: Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the World Bank, Desert Locust Control Organization for East Africa (DLCO-EA) among other partners including International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and Kenya Defense Forces (KDF).

“Let me also thank all our partners for support for providing financial resources, expertise, research, capacity building, restoration of livelihoods, surveillance and control and even security,” Munya appreciated.