Enterprise

Women farmers bear brunt of locust invasion

farmer

A small-scale farmer at Kamok village in Keiyo North. FILE PHOTO | NMG

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Summary

  • With the bulk of farmers being women, it means when natural calamities strike, they bear the brunt as their livelihoods are destroyed. This has been the case with the recen desert locust invasion, which devastated thousands of acres of lands in Kenya.

Women form about 65 percent of the global population that actively participates in agriculture, playing a pivotal role in ensuring not only the wellbeing of their families but also food security in the country. This is according to a World Bank research.

With the bulk of farmers being women, it means when natural calamities strike, they bear the brunt as their livelihoods are destroyed. This has been the case with the recen desert locust invasion, which devastated thousands of acres of lands in Kenya.

A report commissioned by the Ministry of Agriculture and conducted by the Kenya Red Cross shows that women and the youth were highly impacted by the invasion of the desert locust that affected six percent of cropland and nine percent of the pasture fields in 16 counties.

An assessment report on the impact of the insects to livelihood indicates that women bore the brunt of the infestation as they form 80 percent of the population which engages in agriculture in the affected regions in the country.

“Women bear the burden of work in the villages as they produce 80 percent of agricultural activities and production activities in the rural areas so when their crops are destroyed by locusts they are at a loss,” said the report.

Women also have the responsibility to feed children in the community as they are the ones who prepare food and depend on livestock for milk, meat and income from sale of animal products. Youths who rely on agriculture as a source of income were also affected, increasing the level of unemployment.

Those who had taken loans to invest in tomatoes and watermelons suffered losses due to the invasion, according to report.

“Herding of camels, cattle and goats is generally the work of youths, hence lack of pasture affects them adversely,” said the agency.

According to the study, about 609,999 hectares of cropland and 579,786 hectares of pastureland were infested by the desert locusts.

In Kenya, desert locust swarms first appeared in the northeast near Somalia border at Mandera and El Wak region on 28 December 2019 and moved south to Wajir County.

Even though the threat has been contained, International Centre for Insect Physiology and Ecology (Icipe) has warned of a second wave of desert locusts and called for timely mobilisation of financial, material and human resources for proper management when the pests emerge.

Icipe says ground and aerial surveillance efforts and monitoring of weather and vegetation variables in the predicted breeding regions need to be strengthened significantly.

The control operations that were in place to tame the insects included the use of chemicals (aerial and ground sprays) as well as the community’s use of traditional and mechanical approaches that were perceived to control DL.

The approaches the communities used included making noise through beating drums and containers, throwing stones and cutting branches to scare the DL away. The community also burnt grass to produce smoke that scared away the locusts.