Kenya

Desert locusts spread to Meru as Isiolo races to fight invasion

Desert locusts spread to Meru as Isiolo races to fight invasion
  • Ms Mutiga noted on Saturday that the insects landed on Saturday morning, not on Friday, and that they were at Kachiuru, a semi-arid region in Igembe North.
  • The official said the government had dispatched an aircraft and chemicals for spraying, amid a race to control the insects that travel between 16-19 km/h and can cover at least 130km a day.
  • In Isiolo County, the Nation established that aerial spraying did not kick off as planned Saturday morning since the 940 litres of pesticide delivered two days ago were for hand pumps, not aerial use.

Desert locusts have spread to Meru County, Agriculture executive Carol Mutiga has said, a day after reporting that insects sighted in Igembe North were grasshoppers.

Ms Mutiga noted on Saturday that the insects landed on Saturday morning, not Friday, and that they were at Kachiuru, a semi-arid region in Igembe North.

“A swarm is in that area and another in Isiolo. We have been informed that three more swarms are heading in this direction. We don’t know where they will land."

The official said the government had dispatched an aircraft and chemicals for spraying, amid a race to control the insects that travel between 16-19 km/h and can cover at least 130km a day.

“County officers are monitoring the situation. The regional locust control body is also helping us,” said Ms Mutiga.

MAJOR THREAT

Meru's Chief of Staff Gideon Kimathi and Igembe North MP Maore Maoka also said the insects had spread to the county.

Mr Kimathi said the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy and large scale farmers in the county had provided two aircraft to support spraying and surveillance.

The MP said, however, that the pests that have ravaged six counties so far were spotted in Kachiuru on Friday evening.

“The county should concentrate on fighting them. We are asking the national government to urgently contain the spread,” he said.

A local administrator, who did not want to be named, said, “It is true that the locusts have invaded a big area in Kachiuru, Igembe North. We are putting in place measures to contain them."

The locusts are a threat in Meru as miraa and tea are major sources of livelihood.

Mr Joseph Muturia, a miraa farmer who once served as Ntonyiri MP, said, “Should they make it to miraa farms, it will be a disaster. We are staring at a famine never seen before."

The locusts could be in Nairobi, which is about three hours away from Meru, by Sunday.

Aircraft to be used to find the locust invasion
Aircraft to be used to find the locust invasion in Isiolo County are pictured at the local airport on January 11, 2020. PHOTO | COURTESY

WRONG PESTICIDE

In Isiolo County, which is suffering the invasion, the Nation established that spraying did not kick off as planned Saturday morning since the 940 litres of pesticide delivered two days ago were for hand pumps, not aerial use.

Four aircraft were pictured at Isiolo Airport in the morning, amid preparations for the spraying.

Garbatulla Assistant County Commissioner, Mr Charles Jura, and his Merti counterpart, Mr James Kinyanjui, confirmed the exercise had not started by afternoon.

Mr Salad Jillo, the county's Agriculture and Livestock Chief Officer, said they ordered other pesticides that will be delivered in time for spraying from 6pm.

Mr Jillo said two aircraft, one given by the government and the other by an organisation he did not name, will be used for spraying, and two others from the Northern Rangelands Trust (NRT) for surveillance.

County Commissioner Harman Shambi said the aircraft arrived on Friday evening.

ISIOLO COMMITTEE

Isiolo has formed a 10-member team to coordinate efforts to contain the invasion.

The committee will monitor the situation, mobilise funds and educate residents on precautionary measures to take during spraying.

Isiolo's Agriculture and Livestock Executive, Dr Lawrence Mwongera, noted that that insects are a threat to food security.

During a meeting of the county's steering committee, he said they were preparing for spraying and that the county provided a vehicle for surveillance.

TRAINING

Meanwhile, residents are trying to scare away swarms that migrated to parts of Garbatulla and Merti sub-counties on Wednesday evening, after causing destruction in Wajir, Garissa and Marsabit counties.

The locusts, which got into the county through Escort area, had by Thursday evening covered up to 3,050 square kilometres of land, the most affected areas being Duse, Gotu, Barambate, Kulamawe and Kinna in Garbatulla.

Dr Mwongera said the government will, from next week, train officials in Isiolo and other counties on how to deal with the invasion. They will then train communities, he said.

FEARS

Several leaders have raised concerns about the effects of the invasion.

Isiolo majority leader Isack Fayo said, “We fear all pasture will be depleted and that animals will be left emaciated,” said the Kinna ward representative.

Burat MCA Yarrow Hassan asked herders not to take their animals to areas where spraying will take place.

The leaders called for an inter-counties approach to the invasion and asked the government to declare it a disaster in pastoral counties.

Reporting by Gitonga Marete, David Muchui and Waweru Wairimu