NAIROBI. – Swarms of hungry locusts are devouring crops in Eastern Africa, the worst invasion of the insects in decades.
The outbreak of desert locusts is the worst that Kenya has seen in 70 years, according to the Associated Press. The insects have been pouring into the country from Ethiopia and Somalia, leaving behind destroyed farmland in a part of the world already suffering from hunger.
The United Nations (UN) said the problem could increase in March when rainfall picks up across the area, bringing with it new vegetation. The swarms have the potential to balloon 500 times their size if measures are not taken to cull the locusts.
Desert locusts have swarmed into Kenya by the hundreds of millions from Somalia and Ethiopia, countries that haven’t seen such numbers in a quarter-century, destroying farmland and threatening an already vulnerable region.
“We must act immediately,” said David Phiri of the UN Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO).
Farmers have attempted to guard their crops by banging pots and pans, although the efforts are largely futile as a single swarm can be comprised of up to 150 million of the bugs per square kilometre of farmland.
“Even cows are wondering what is happening,” said Ndunda Makanga, a farmer in Kenya.
“Corn, sorghum, cowpeas, they have eaten everything.”
A single small swarm of locusts can eat through enough food for 35 000 people in a single day and can travel more than 90 miles in just one day.
Approximately US$70 million is required to increase pesticide spraying, which is the only efficient way to stop the hordes of insects, although pest control is difficult in places such as Somalia, where large swaths of land are controlled by the Islamist group Al-Shabab.
The locusts are also expanding out towards other countries such as Uganda and South Sudan, where farmers are worried their crops could be next. – AP.