Farmers in the South Rift region are grappling with new swarms of desert locusts.
They are worried that the invasion could lead to major losses and hunger, given that aerial spraying of the insects has been put on hold in some places due to the coronavirus crisis.
On Sunday, large swarms were spotted in Mukinyai Farm in Elburgon, Nakuru County, and just two days later the Samburu County government raised the alarm that the swarms had tripled in just a week.
Fresh swarms have also been sighted in several parts of Laikipia and Nyandarua counties, causing fear among farmers.
In Laikipia, the insects were spotted in Karuga, Losogwa and Igwamiti wards on Monday, while in Nyandarua they were sighted in Gwa Kung’u, Kalamton and Mahianyu areas, which had witnessed previous invasions.
“The young locusts started invading my farm on Monday morning. By evening every part of the vegetation was covered by the insects,” said Ms Irene Mwangi, a farmer in Njonjo area, Laikipia County.
Ms Mwangi said the insects might have migrated from neighbouring Subukia constituency in Nakuru County, where they had earlier been sighted.
Farmers have criticised the government for abandoning the war on the destructive insects.
“We reported to agriculture officers after spotting the insects near our farms but they are yet to respond. They are spreading very fast, we now fear that we might be left with nothing,” said Mr Gabriel Mwangi, a farmer in Gwa Kung’u area.
Mr Stephen Thumbi, another farmer, said the insects had ravaged vegetation in forests, adding that the invasion could raise the risk of human-wildlife conflict if animals are forced out of the wild in search of forage. “They have invaded the neighbouring Shamanei and Marmanet forests. We fear that this might leave wild animals with nothing to feed on, forcing them to invade our farms,” said Mr Thumbi.
The residents called for speedy intervention by both the county and national governments.
“We understand that the government is currently dealing with Covid-19 but it should also do something to control locusts before the situation gets out of hand. We will still need food after the pandemic is over,” said Ms Njeri Ndirangu, another resident.
In Nakuru, aerial and ground spraying was launched in Bahati and Subukia sub-counties.
According to Agriculture executive Immaculate Maina, the move is aimed at ensuring the pests do not move to other parts of the county.
The county has been on high alert since the pests first emerged in neighbouring Laikipia County.
“Our officials and volunteers are on the ground. We can now tell the differences between a grasshopper and a locust and our early warning systems are in place,” said Dr Maina during an interview with the Nation.
“We are in close contact with the national office of the department of pest control. We are also updating the governor on the same,” said Dr Maina. Kabazi MCA Peter Mbae said swarms of locusts were sighted last Saturday in Lower Solai and spread fast to Kabazi.
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