Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri says the government estimates it will eradicate and stop the spread of the desert locust in the next two weeks.
Addressing the press at his Kilimo house office Friday, Kiunjuri said the government has set up a multi-stakeholder command and communication centre at the ministry headquarters as the government intensifies its fight against the locusts.
He said his ministry has received 250 million shillings from the emergency fund to accelerate the aerial spraying exercise.
Currently, the government is carrying out the aerial spraying exercise in the affected counties of Wajir, Marsabit, and Mandera and also taking precautions to ensure the swarms don’t invade the neighboring counties of Meru, Isiolo, Samburu, Tharaka Nithi and Kitui counties.
Get breaking news on your Mobile as-it-happens. SMS ‘NEWS’ to 20153
The CS also said the ministry will from Saturday commence sensitization forums and emergency briefing of all key officers being deployed in the affected counties to boost ground and aerial control measures.
” The Government has distributed pesticides, vehicle-mounted sprayers, motorised knapsack sprayers, handheld ultra-low volume sprayers and personal protective equipment. Today, the Government has deployed a second aircraft to Isiolo to reinforce the operations.” He said.
He said this will help ease mobilization of county ground teams to support aerial teams. Kiunjuri directed counties to send their teams for training in Isiolo from Saturday.
” The Government continues to respond to the Desert Locust invasion affecting Mandera, Wajir, Marsabit, Garissa, Isiolo and now in Samburu Counties. In response to the threat, the Government has mobilized technical officers on the ground who will train people on control measures.” He added.
Kiunjuri urged Kenyans to report any cases of swarms to the relevant authorities but urged people against spreading fake information.
” To coordinate this exercise, we are working closely with Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), KALRO, Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (kEPHIS), PCPB, Kenya, University of Nairobi and International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE). We urge Kenyans to report any locust swarms in their area to the authorities, as we work round the clock to arrest the situation
The CS at the same time admitted that the country is facing a potential food shortage due to the current invasion. Kiunjuri says the government is in the process of assessing the extent of damage caused by the locusts on animal pasture and food crops as the government steps up efforts to stop the invasive pests from migrating to Kenya’s key food basket regions.
The current invasion of desert locust in 6 counties mainly from North Eastern region is threatening the country’s food security as a single swarm that contains tens of millions of the invasive pest can consume the same amount of food in one day as about 35,000 people with the same number of locusts destroying animal grass that can feed 50,000 heads of cattle.
As the government starts to access the damage caused by the locust next week experts say the increased sprouting of non-food green vegetation due to heavy rains experienced in most parts of the country might minimize the damage caused by the locust on food crops.