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East Africa: Second Wave of Desert Locusts Upsurge Hits the Region

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The East African region is bracing itself for a second wave of a desert locust upsurge after efforts to control their breeding in Somalia, Ethiopia and Yemen failed.

The Desert Locusts were spotted in the upper Coastal region of Kenya, in Taita Taveta County.

Kenya’s Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya said plans were at an advanced stage to control the new swarm with ground pesticides and aerial spraying.

“Our projections are that our country will be hit by a second wave of desert locust’s invasion by mid-December,” said CS Munya.

According to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, last month, strong northerly winds carried small mature (yellow) swarmlets south from southern Somalia to northeast and eastern Kenya.

The change of the winds direction is largely responsible for the resurgence of the swamps in Mandera, Wajir, Garissa, Isiolo, Tana River, and Kitui Counties and now in Taita Taveta.

It is expected that a few swarmlets that continued further south to Taita Taveta County are nearly within the reach to northeast Tanzania where they could appear in Kilimanjaro, Manyara, and Tanga regions.

“We have been tracking the movement of the Desert locusts. The winds turned on November 9 and we saw locusts from the parts of Southern Somalia,” said Prof Hamadi Boga, Principal Secretary of the Department for Agriculture Research in the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Irrigation in the government of Kenya.

“Our focus had shown that probably there would be here in mid-December, but it looked like there were some swamps in Southern Somalia which no one was monitoring. So they passed through Wajir County, Kitui, Tana River and they are now in Taita Taveta County.”

The pests could cost East Africa and Yemen $8.5 billion this year, the World Bank has said.

Though the Desert locusts are now in Taita Taveta, the PS says the terrain may not support another breeding season.

“We know the biology of these creatures. In a bushy like terrain of Tsavo National Park, and the ecosystem around there, you can’t talk of vegetation devastation,” Prof Boga explained.

“The presence of the locusts in Taita Taveta County is a suicide mission for the locusts, because it’s a movement to nowhere. The terrain is not for their kind of habitat. Most likely they will die there.”

Further, the age at which the locusts arrived in the Coastal region is quiet advanced.

“They are about to finish their life cycle because they are looking for a place to lay their eggs. And after they have laid their eggs, they have no other business but die.”

“We are looking at Somalia very closely. If the wave will be too big, probably some may escape. But again we usually say if they go to Uganda, they will not come out. They will die there. There is no way out of Uganda because of the terrain and weather,” the PS explained.

According to FAO, breeding continues in central Somalia and eastern Ethiopia where hopper bands are present, and a new generation of immature swarms will start forming by the end of November.

From the second week of December onwards, several waves of numerous swarms can be expected to move south in Somalia and Ethiopia, reaching northern Kenya.

Intensive aerial and ground control operations continue in both countries.

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