Locust invasion made worse by unusual heavy rainfall, floods

Locust invasion made worse by unusual heavy rainfall, floods

Locusts can form huge swarms that can strip trees and crops over vast areas if allowed to breed unchecked in favorable conditions.

Adult locust swarms can fly up to 150 kilometres a day and a very small swarm eats as much in one day as about 35,000 people, Reuters reports.

The last major upsurge was in 2003-2005 when more than 12 million hectares were treated in west and northwest Africa, incurring a cost of about $750 million (Ksh. 75.7billion) including food aid.

“Nearly 13million ha of desert locust infestations were treated with pesticides from October 2003 to September 2005,” a report from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said.

However, use of pesticides can have have adverse effects on human health and the environment, the study found, as researchers urged caution in balancing risks of pesticide use.

According to the U.N. food agency, an average swarm can destroy crops that could feed 2,500 people for a year.

Two weeks ago, FAO reported that desert locusts were destroying tens of thousands of hectares of crops and grazing land in Somalia, the worst invasion in 25 years.

Reuters reports that the latest locust plague is far more serious than the FAO earlier projected.

It has apparently been made worse by unseasonably heavy rainfall and floods across East Africa that have killed hundreds of people in the past several months.

Experts say climate shocks are largely responsible for rapidly changing weather patterns in the region.

The last time that Kenya sounded the alarm over locust invasion was in December 2007.

The locust swarms originated in Yemen, flew into Ethiopia’s Ogaden region where they laid eggs in October and a few swarms continued south towards Somalia and northeastern Kenya, the government said at the time.

Other countries that have been hit by locust invasion in the last few years include Madagascar, Russia, United States (Las Vegas) and Pakistan.

In 2013, billions of locusts affected roughly half the island nation of Madagascar; according to CNN, it was the worst infestation since the 1950s.

And in July 2019, aassive swarms of grasshoppers descended on Las Vegas.

— 365 in Vegas (@365inVegas) July 26, 2019

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