They Are Back In Their Trillions: East Africa Faced With a Second Wave of Desert Locusts

The East Africa region is currently facing a second wave of locust invasions that could cause more damage than the first invasion. Compared to the first generation that hit the region about two months ago, the second generation of swarms is being recorded in their trillions.

In the first generation, the locust reached their peak size (billions) in a span of two months. The rise in numbers of the second generation is based on the scientific finding that locust swarms multiply by a factor of 20x per generation!

The most affected communities so far in Kenya are the pastoralists living in Northern Kenya. They are faced with a paradox that the more the area experiences heavy rainfall, the more the locusts will thrive and destroy the vegetation that their livestock depend on. At the same time they see the rain as a blessing as it means enough pasture for their livestock .

A FAO senior official from Kenya notes that we are in race against time to ensure that the new swarms do not breed. He adds that, if this happens, the discussion will no longer be on locusts as an invasion but a plague.

Pesticides have been delayed reaching the regions affected as a result of the State measures put in place to contain the Coronavirus. The GOK and the United Nations have warned that the reproduction of the  locusts will eventually lead to a calamitous food shortage if they are not contained and end up in extensive crop lands.


Image of a map showing the locust distribution in Kenya

Kenya currently has 18 swarms and the weather condition worsens the situation. The rainy season is perfect locust breeding weather and the rains and locust swarms are expected to last at least 2-3 more months.

The Financial appeal from East Africa regional Governments to the global community is almost falling on deaf ears as the global focus is COVID-19.

And no one seems to be concerned about the environmental and social impacts associated with the management and eradication efforts. The chemical being sprayed (Deltamethrin) is much better than the original chemicals that were used, but still are a cause for concern.

Deltamethrin is a pyrethroid insecticide that kills insects on contact and through digestion.

Deltamethrin belongs to a group of pesticides called synthetic pyrethroids. This pesticide is toxic to aquatic life, particularly fish, and therefore must be used with extreme caution around water. Although generally considered safe to use around humans, it is still neurotoxic to humans.

With no one really knowing when the coronavirus pandemic will come to an end. If a third generation of locusts were to happen around June and July, then this would definitely challenge our agriculture systems and add pain to the life-threatening impacts of the Virus!

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