Kenya government received 10 pickups mounted with sprayers from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). This donation comes hot in the heels of three more airplanes that were handed over earlier in the month, bringing the total to five, to intensify the aerial and ground desert locusts control measures. Speaking at the handover, FAO Representative to Kenya Dr. Tobias Takavarasha highly praised the continued encouraging donor response to the desert locust crisis that is affecting Kenya.
“We are touched, moved and inspired by the donors who continue to respond to the desert locust emergency, and enabling us to intensify aerial and ground operations. Desert Locusts are a direct threat to FAO’s mandate, and as such, we must do everything we can to support the Government of Kenya to ensure that there’s food security and zero hunger to the populace.”
Receiving the vehicles, the Cabinet Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture Peter Munya welcomed the continued support from FAO. “The 10 vehicles are very timely in the race against time to control desert locusts. The hopper bands that hatched three weeks ago are about to fledge, and these vehicles will be very instrumental in intensifying ground spraying efforts to ensure they do not mature into swarms.”
Threat to food security
Already, 3.1 million people in arid and semi-arid areas of the country are food insecure and increased breeding of desert locusts poses a wider risk of loss of pasture and crops at germination stage. From Dec 28 2019, these migratory pests have been reported in some parts of 26 Counties including: Samburu, Isiolo, Marsabit, Mandera, Kitui, Tharaka Nithi, Garissa, Laikipia, Wajir, Embu, Turkana, Baringo, West Pokot, Makueni, Kajiado, Tana River, Machakos, Elgeiyo Marakwet, Uasin Gishu, Kirinyaga, Meru, Nakuru, Murang’a, Nyeri, Trans Nzoia and Bungoma.
Additional capacity to control desert locusts
FAO is further supporting the Government of Kenya (GoK) to set-up four desert locust bases in Isiolo, Marsabit, Wajir and Kabarnet. Each base will get two vehicles, as well as one for Garissa and another for Wajir. 135,600 litres of ultra-low volume (ULV) pesticides have been procured, with the first batch of 28,000 litres having been delivered to Government of Kenya.
Increased ground desert locust surveillance
Part of the Phase II Interventions include increased ground operations, aimed at locating, tagging and monitoring desert locusts breeding sites. Last month, FAO identified and trained 500 National Youth Servicemen who were deployed for ground locust control operations. 100 more youth from Mandera and Garissa are currently being trained, with the number spaced out in adherence to the physical distancing recommendations to curb the spread of Covid-19.
In addition to all this, FAO is further strengthening the Kenya Government’s desert locust control measures by training 30 Trainer of Trainers, who will then train 900 local operations team in the respective affected counties. These 900 trainees will be responsible for actual ground surveillance and control activities, and will play a critical role in relaying data to the control bases.
Since January, 62,000 hectares have been treated so far from combining FAO and GoK resources. FAO recently scaled up its appeal to USD 153.2 million for rapid response and anticipatory action for the region. Kenya’s allocation is USD 21.4 million, of which USD 19.8.5 million has been pledged by different donors. The funding has been received from USAID, DEVCO, DFID, Bill & Melissa Gates Foundation, CERF, ECHO, SWISS, Denmark, BEL, ASTF, Canada, Saudi Arabia, with more in the pipeline.