Kenya is facing the worst desert locust outbreak recorded since 1950. The outbreak has seen swarms of the insects invade the east African nation from Somalia and Ethiopia.
The locust invasion on the already vulnerable land is destroying farmland and threatening the local residents with devastating hunger. Moreover, and according to the United Nations, the onset of the rainy season in March will bring with it growth of new vegetation, which will in turn result in an increase of the fast-breeding locusts to almost 500 times their current numbers.
The only effective way to combat the locust menace, according to the UN, is through use of pesticide spraying. Additionally, approximately US $70m is needed for this venture. However, this might not be easy, as some countries like Somalia has parts of it under threat from the al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab extremist group.
The severity of the situation cannot be emphasized more than as put by Jens Laerke of the UN humanitarian office in Geneva; a small swarm of the insects can consume enough food for 35,000 people in a single day.
Meanwhile, farmers in the affected areas are vulnerable and afraid to let their cattle out for grazing. Their millet, sorghum and maize crops lie on the destructive paths of the locusts. At the moment, about 70,000 hectares of land in Kenya are already infested.
Regional authorities have warned that a single swarm can contain up to 150m locusts per sq km of farmland, an area the size of almost 250 football fields.
Kenya and Ethiopia both have four planes with spraying equipment. However, they might need
A changing climate has contributed to “exceptional” breeding conditions, said Nairobi-based climate scientist Abubakr Salih Babiker.