FAO in Kenya

Kenya intensifies desert locust control measures in Turkana County

FAO Representative to Kenya ad interim Dr. Tobias Takavarasha flagging off additional vehicle mounted sprayers for Desert Locust control in Turkana. ©FAO/Luis Tato

Turkana - Kenya: The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations has intensified the desert locust control measures in Turkana County, by issuing six surveillance vehicles, three pickups mounted with sprayers, one helicopter, two spray airplanes as well as one fixed wing aircraft for the Kenya-Uganda border surveillance.

This is in response to the reported sightings of mature copulating swarms last month, which have resulted to the current 200 hopper bands sites in both pasture and farmlands as well as urban centers. Turkana South is the most hit, followed by Turkana West, Turkana Central and Loima sub-counties.

 “Turkana is now the epicentre of Desert Locust control measures, with the highest number of hopper band sites reported. The number of counties infested with desert locusts now has reduced from 28 to four counties. That is: Turkana, Marsabit, Samburu and Isiolo.

FAO is taking a regional approach to desert locusts control response, and it is important for Turkana to intensify control measures to ensure that the desert locust do not mature and continue to compound the threat to Kenya’s and East Africa’s food security,” said Dr. Tobias Takavarasha, the FAO Representative to Kenya ad interim, who was peaking during the flagging off at Lodwar Airstrip.

Last month, FAO enlisted the Kenya Red Cross to conduct an assessment on the impact of desert locusts and control measures on the environmental, crops, livestock and livelihoods in 16 counties. This will be done through informant interviews, the use of drones and satellite imagery.

These counties include: Mandera, Wajir, Garissa, Tana river, Isiolo, Samburu, Likipia, Tharaka Nithi, Embu, Meru, Machakos, Kitui, Marsabit, Turkana, Baringo and Elgeyo Marakwet.

FAO has also collaborated with Food for the Hungry, Agency for Technical Corporation and Development (ACTED) and Somali Lifeline Organization to support counties to mobilise the movement of ground teams to perform both surveillance and control measures in the 16 most affected counties.

Turkana County Deputy Governor Peter Lothiro welcomed this additional support. ‘The additional support has arrived at a very crucial time. We urge the community to collaborate, and share any sightings of desert locust so that the teams are dispatched quickly to the site.’

“In addition to the logistical support we have received from FAO, 200 National Youth Servicemen of whom I trained together with FAO are on their way to Turkana. 100 will be in Lokichar, Turkana South, and another 100 in Lodwar to be sent to sights in Loima and Turkana central,” said Turkana Desert Locust Control base manager, Stanley Kipkoech.

Compounded 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, coupled with the current flooding as well as Covid-19 pandemic, poses a wider risk of food and pasture shortage.

Regionally, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan and Uganda host 25.3 million people facing high levels of acute food insecurity, which is 28% of the case-load of Africa. Of these, more than 11 million people in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia are located in areas currently affected by the desert locust infestations.

Despite Covid-19 pandemic and the current floods, desert locust surveillance and control measures continues in earnest. These migratory pests have been contained in four counties at the moment (Turkana, Marsabit, Isiolo, Samburu), down from the previous 28. This has been achieved through effective aerial and ground spraying, as well as increased surveillance.

The 501 National Youth Servicemen that FAO trained in February have been very instrumental to curb the spread of desert locusts at the hopper band stage. The 10 vehicles mounted with sprayers and the three aircrafts purchased and hired respectively by FAO have been instrumental in controlling the flying mature and immature swarms.

Use of technology

Further, the eLocust3m mobile app developed in partnership with Plant Village and used by scouts to gather real-time data in form of photos of the desert locusts sighted as well as share the GPS coordinates of the locations has been instrumental in efficient coordination of surveillance and control measures.

FAO hired four helicopters, which is used to verify these locations uploaded to the eLocust3m app, and to decide whether aerial or ground spraying would be effective based on the lifecycle of the desert locust reported.

This app is now being used to map out the current breeding sites in readiness for hand-held spraying by National Youth Servicemen once they hatch. So far, 303, 881ha has been surveyed. 100,773ha has been infested, with 56,079ha treated. Of the 193,600 litres of pesticides procured by FAO for the Government of Kenya, only 30,000 litres has delayed in India due to Covid-19 restrictions.

Rolling donor response

FAO recently scaled up its appeal to USD 153.2 million for rapid response and anticipatory action for the region between January and December 2020.  Kenya’s allocation is USD 21.4 million, of which USD 19.85 million has been received from USAID, DEVCO, DFID, Bill Gates Foundation, CERF, ECHO, SWISS, Denmark, BEL, ASTF, Canada, Saudi Arabia, Russia, with more in the pipeline.

DEVCO has recently topped up their contribution by USD 2m.

‘We are delighted by the continued donor commitment to supporting the Government of Kenya in the race to fight against the current desert locust invasion to safeguard our food security. This is a big morale booster for our teams who are working tirelessly in the counties affected,’ said Dr Tobias Takavarasha, FAO Representative to Kenya.

Related links:

  • Desert locust ground surveillance intensified in Kenya [LINK]
  • FAO Desert Response Dashboard [LINK]
  • FAO Desert Locust Update [LINK]

Social Media:  #DesertLocust

Twitter: @FAOKenya @FAOEmergencies @FAOEasternAfrica @FAOlocust

Press Contacts: 
Lydia Limbe
Communication Specialist
Email: [email protected]