East African countries are overwhelmed by the sheer size and scale of the swarms of locusts that have devastated farmlands and livelihoods.
A locus invasion of such magnitude has not been seen in generations prompting most governments to seek international assistance and regional cooperation to curb their spread. By the last count, the locusts had made their way to the Congo.
Unpredictable weather patterns catalyzed by climate change have created ideal nurturing conditions for the locusts to thrive. Kenya ran out of pesticide while neighboring Ethiopia ran out of planes to carry out the spraying. War-ravaged Somalia is in no position to guarantee the safety of extermination teams so they will have to bear with the menace.
Ethiopia confirmed that the swarms have made it to the fertile farmlands that mark its Rift Valley landscape. Kenya and Somalia have been stripped of grazing land in certain the semi-arid regions where the locust has hit.
Scientists attribute the climatic changes to warmer seas which inspire more rain. The wet conditions waken the dormant eggs, as strong cyclones disperse the swarms even further.
The swarms cover vast swaths of land in a day, roughly 93 miles (150 km). Per every square kilometer, there are 60 million locusts on average. If the situation goes unchecked, international bodies like F.A.O. warn of a gloomy future that will result in the devastation of the planting and harvest seasons while leaving millions of people on the verge of starvation.
Uganda has employed its military forces to help in the fight while Kenya has equipped hundreds of youth cadets with the training and expertise required for spraying the place. Unable to get their hands on the right amount of pesticides, some Somali soldiers have fired anti-aircraft weapons at the swarming pests.
With the rainy season being anticipated in March, all attention has shifted to the next generation of larvae which has started wiggling on the ground. Farmers are at a crossroads as this is the time when they are just about to plant their seeds. With representatives from expert bodies such as FAO predicting a future wave, the impact on the region’s agricultural output will be devastating.
Kenya has been grappling with the spraying efforts until it briefly ran out of pesticide. Nevertheless, cooperation and assistance from FAO have seen them get back on track.