Locust invasion reverses rainfall gains in Turkana

Thousands of locusts have invaded some parts of Turkana. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Locusts have invaded thousands of acres of land in the vast pastoral Turkana County, threatening the shorten the joy of residents after the recent heavy downpour left them with crops and livestock feeds.

County Agriculture executive Chris Aletia said more than 10,000 acres of land under food crops had been affected.

“With this being a pastoral region the acreage or pasture that is affected is enormous. We require 4,000 litres of pesticides to eliminate the catastrophe that is a threat to the yield expected from our farms,” he said.

He said the locusts are suspected to have migrated from neighbouring Ethiopia noting that Turkana North Constituency was the first to be affected by the insects.

The pest was first reported in Lakezone, Lapur Ward, Kibish Ward, Kaikor-Kaaleng and Nakalale wards.

The county official said they have been coordinating with national government and already 1,000 litres of chemicals to kick-start the control was available.

“We ask various partners including Food and Agriculture Organisation to intervene because the exercise requires an aircraft for aerial spraying, which is an expensive venture keeping in mind that the county is vast,” said Mr Aletia.

According to June situation report, the tree locusts are migratory, trans-boundary and notifiable pests that prefer to attack acacia trees and Prosopis that are the major tree vegetation cover in Turkana.

“However, the pest also attacks crops hence remain a great threat to the farmers and are one of the hindering factors towards attaining food security.” The report read in part.

Mr Aletia said that locust outbreak had been reported in most parts of the county even though the intensity of infestation needs to be determined by carrying out surveillance.

“Locusts are feeding on plant leaves. A single tree can have a swarm of about 150 to 200 locusts,” he said.

He said that the only reliable way to control the insects was through aerial spraying since most of the locusts were found to hibernate in Acacia and the Prosopis bushes that were surrounding the farm.

He said that there is an urgent need to reduce the population of locust to lower the economic effect of the damaging insects on food security.

According to the report, Turkana West sub-county through support from development partners has already managed to carry out surveillance in some parts but however, more support is required for a detailed surveillance to be carried out due to its vastness.

“Within the farms, sorghum was the worst affected crop. The locusts were feeding on sorghum grains which were at between the milky and maturity stages,” reads part of the report.