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County maps locust breeding grounds, embarks on motorized spraying

KNA  Farmers in Kitui County are counting losses after large swarms of the dreaded desert locusts invaded several farmlands during the last week of December.


 The second wave of locust invasion was spotted in Mutha and Kanziko in Kitui South Constituency leaving massive crop destruction.

The ravages from the plague of locusts in Kitui County has jolted the county government to map the pests’ breeding grounds and has embarked on motorized spraying to eradicate the hatched nymphs.

Speaking in Kitui on Thursday, Deputy Governor Dr. Wathe Nzau, who is coordinating the spraying efforts, said a technical team from the Plant Protection Services has been dispatched to the county with motorized equipment to deal with the situation.

During the start of 2020, the dreaded pests that wreaked havoc in the semi-arid county left behind a trail of millions of eggs being hatched.

“We have mapped the locusts’ breeding grounds particularly in Mutha and Kanziko wards and adjacent remote villages. Our team is on the ground assisted with community surveillance teams to assist in the mapping of new and existing breeding areas of the pests,” said Dr. Wathe.

He said that the dreaded pests that descended on crops and pastureland have left eggs that are hatching. “There are fears of renewed attacks from the pests if the nymphs are not annihilated at this young stage,” he said.

“We have embarked on motorized spraying to augment the efforts of the national government’s aerial spraying. We are targeting the hatched nymphs. This will ensure that we eradicate the locusts completely from our county,” said Dr. Wathe.

“Desert locusts live for about three months. After a generation matures, the adults lay their eggs which, under the right conditions, can hatch to form a new generation up to 20 times larger than the previous one,” he said.

 Dr. Wathe said that in this way, desert locusts could increase their population size exponentially over successive generations if they are not contained at the nymph stage.

He said if not contained, the invasion and subsequent multiplication of the desert locusts would trigger widespread devastation to crops and pastures in a region that is already extremely vulnerable to famine.

Commenting on the urgency of emergency resources to counter the locusts’ invasion, Dr. Wathe said that as the insects continued to multiply, the need for aid could rise considerably, especially if more aggressive control measures were not implemented soon.

The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimated one swarm in Kenya to be around 2,400 sq km meaning it could contain up to 200 billion locusts, each of which consume their own weight in food every day.

Huge locust swarms in East Africa are the result of extreme weather swings and could prove catastrophic for a region still reeling from drought and deadly floods.

The locust invasion is the biggest in Ethiopia and Somalia in 25 years, and the biggest in Kenya in 70 years, according to the FAO.

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