East African countries should brace themselves for a second round of invasion by the desert locusts in the next one to two months, Kenya’s Ministry of Agriculture has warned.
The swarms of locusts, which have spread to seven East African countries, have been laying eggs along their migratory paths expected to hatch between March and April.
“Hoppers have between three to six weeks before they fly. We have a plan in place and we have mobilised resources running up to June this year,” Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Agriculture Peter Munya told The EastAfrican.
Addressing donors and representatives of affected countries in New York last week, United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) Director-General Qu Dongyu said the locusts had spread to the northern edges of Uganda and Tanzania, and called for greater and faster action to prevent a humanitarian crisis in the region.
Rwanda’s Meteorology department has projected that the desert locusts could land in the Eastern Province within two weeks, and the government has appointed a task force from the Ministry of Agriculture and Disaster Management to deal with the looming invasion.
According to FAO, the locust invasion has affected Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Somalia, Ethiopia and Eritrea.
Mr Munya said the Kenyan government has already procured 600 additional sprayers to commence training at Gilgil’s National Youth Service on February 13, to reinforce teams already on the ground. They will be deployed on February 16.
They will “spray the locusts at the nymph stage before they fly, once the eggs hatch. We are also increasing the aerial spraying and surveillance to 20 planes,” said Mr Munya.
There are fears that a second round of invasion will hit Kenya’s food growing regions such as the North Rift.
In Uganda, the government has set aside $4.5 million as a contingency fund to fight the locusts, and Tanzania, which has detected swarms in its northern border areas close to Mount Kilimanjaro, has hired three planes to spray them.
Kenya’s Ministry of Agriculture has allocated $2.3 million towards aerial and ground control operations, and the FAO has appealed for $76 million in emergency aid to tackle the locust threat regionally.
Uganda’s Ministry of Agriculture last month requested contingency funds of $1.35 million for aircraft fuel, pesticides and other supplies.
Analysts at Africa-focused advisory firm StratLink said the invasion represents an unprecedented threat.
“We assess that the immediate risks to food security and agricultural output remain limited, since most commercial farmers have already harvested their crops. However, if the swarms invade key food growing regions, we fear that this could affect the new planting season.”