Aerial spraying of desert locusts that have invaded parts of Elgeyo Marakwet County began on Friday.
The spraying of the destructive locusts which were sighted at Chebinyiny Village in Soy North Ward began as early as 7 o’clock in the morning by officers from National Pest Control unit.
By Thursday, the pests had covered approximately 48 square kilometres.
They were first sighted in Kaben, in Endo Ward, Marakwet East area two weeks ago before they flew back to Baringo.
On Tuesday, around 2 o’clock, they were again sighted in Chegilet where they spent the night and left the following morning towards Kiptoro where they spent the night around Kiptoro Borehole in Keiyo North before swarming south to Rimoi before settling at Chebinyiny sub location; Chepsigot location where they stayed overnight.
Barnabas Morori said he had never witnessed such invasion in his lifetime and thanked the government for coming to their rescue. “We tried chasing them but they seemed stubborn. We hope the pesticides kill them,” said the 70 year old man as he shook his head.
James Komen who is a small scale livestock farmer said he was worried his livestock my lack what to eat.
“They have invaded the whole village. I thought it was a whirlwind. They are feeding on acacia leaves which are also food for our cows and goats,” he said.
Deputy Governor Wisley Rotich said immediately reports of the locusts being sighted in Elgeyo Mrakwet reached the county executive office, a team from the agriculture department led by CEC Anne Kibosia and the provincial administration was dispatched to monitor and relay information to the National Desert locust Control Unit.
“Our Governor H.E Alex Tolgos immediately engaged the CS Agriculture Peter Munya who further instructed that we monitor and give accurate coordinates of the exact location of the swarms,” said the Deputy Governor.
Among the most sought trees by the insects is the acacia which its flowers are good for honey production while the leaves and pods are livestock feed and the Ficus Egyptica, locally known as ngoswo a traditional vegetable.
He said: “The invasion by the locusts is alarming. If it persists, it is going to threaten food security in the area. The spraying could help and contain the locusts but as at now, it is a wait and see situation… the locusts have consumed a huge tonnage of vegetation which poses a great threat to food security and livestock pasture. We hope that the chemicals used will be effective enough in the fullness of time.”
Kibosia said already four were recently trained by the Food Agricultural Association (FAO) on how to manage locust menace which has now affected Endo, Emsoo, Tambach and Soy North Wards along the Kerio Valley. “The officers have been monitoring the situation since Tuesday and we are in constant communication with the national government and I am happy to report that we are making progress,” said the Agriculture CEC member.
Barnabas Kwambai , Emsoo Ward Agricultural Officer who was among the officers trained on locust management said the situation in Kerio was complex that could not allow hand spraying.
“With the tall trees, it would be difficult to use manual sprays. They are currently at stage three where they can mate and hatch ,” he said warning that the insects could fly back due to availability of warm breeding places along River Kerio and Lake Kamnorok which are viable for hatching.
Edwin Seroney, Agriculture Chief Officer who led another team of officers in monitoring the locusts’ movements asked farmers in the area to call share any information regarding the movement of the locusts.
Kenya experienced locust invasion in 2007 but the situation was contained. It is estimated that the swarm in Kerio is over 50 million.
The locusts started crossing the border of Ethiopia and Somalia into Kenya late December. They have so far invaded several counties which include; Mandera, Wajir, Marsabit, Garissa, Isiolo, Meru, Samburu ,Laikipia, Baringo and Elgeyo Marakwet.