Poor rain brings optimism African locust outbreaks decline

Baraka, Kenya (AP) — In a escort fleet of pickup trucks equipped with spray guns, soldiers zoomed on Baraka’s hills, leaving traces of dust and confusing villagers.

When the soldier sees the enemy, the vehicle brakes. It is a desert locust that invades billions of landing swarms where forests meet farmland.

Since the outbreak of locusts in East Africa continues until the second year, the placement of soldiers in regular agricultural personnel proves the seriousness of the threat. Young locusts arrive like waves from Somali breeding grounds where anxiety hinders the reaction.

At the beginning of the Kenyan planting season, farmers are still worried about their crops, but the late rain has given them a bit of optimism about the fight against locusts.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations says a herd of locusts was found in the Rift Valley. The Rift Valley produces Kenyan staple foods of corn, wheat and potatoes.

However, FAO says herds in both countries remain immature as a result of poor rain in Kenya and neighboring Ethiopia. Their number also continues to decline due to ongoing control operations.

FAO said in a recent update that without rainfall, herds would not breed, significantly limiting the scale and extent of the threat.

“Therefore, there is cautious optimism that the current surge is declining in the Horn of Africa, especially in northern Kenya and southern Ethiopia, where poor breeding this spring was restricted by inadequate rain, followed by northeastern Ethiopia. This is the case if it rains similarly poorly in the summer. “

Last year, authorities were able to contain what was considered Kenya’s largest locust epidemic in 70 years, primarily through coordinated aerial spraying that quickly covered vast areas.

Many of those herds were in uninhabited areas. This year, the herd presented different challenges by landing in more populated areas. FAO’s livelihood recovery expert, Ambrose Nyatich, means that spraying is out of the question as it can have a negative impact on humans and livestock.

Therefore, delayed rain is an advantage — partially.

Desert locust poses unprecedented risks to agriculture-based livelihoods and food security in the already vulnerable Horn region of Africa amid economic crises, droughts and conflicts, FAO said.

According to the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, a regional organization in East Africa, a typical desert locust herd can contain up to 150 million locusts per square kilometer. “The average herd can destroy enough food crops a day to feed 2,500 people.”

Farmers like Hannah Nyokabi in the Baraka community, which means “blessing” in Swahili, are in a difficult situation. Less rain may mitigate the threat of locusts, but it almost certainly means lower yields.

“Something got worse. When I look at the farm, there is nothing,” she said.

Another farmer, Ann Wa Mago, 60, called poor crops better than nothing.

“I was lucky to arrive when we weren’t planting, otherwise they would have wiped out our produce,” she said.

A group of still-uniform children ran around the farm, robbing locusts from the air and the ground.

For them, the recently arrived herds are almost sun-damaged and unparalleled wind and rain. One kilogram of locusts receives money from non-governmental organizations that want to turn insects into livestock feed.

“This is the money that came to our doorstep,” said 16-year-old John Mubiti. Ann Wangari, 12, said she had collected 35 kilograms before going to school.

However, FAO’s Nyatich warned that locusts should not be used as food because they may have been sprayed with pesticides.

“The initiatives that some organizations have been trying to use locusts in their fish and animal diets need to be considered in terms of how they can be regulated in the future,” said Nyatich.