Oxfam has warned that the number of desert locusts that have invaded parts of East Africa may increase by 500 times should no control measure be taken.
The development agency further warns of a serious food crisis in parts of Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia where the locusts are causing mayhem on plants.
The food crisis caused by the locusts invasion will add on to that caused by huge droughts and flash floods.
The UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) estimates that Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia need $70million among them to tackle the plague.
According to Oxfam over to 150 million locusts invade per square kilometre, with half a million locusts weighing approximately one tonne. One tonne of locusts eat as much food in one day as about 10 elephants, 25 camels or 2,500 people. The insects can destroy at least 200 tonnes of vegetation per day.
“Currently, 25.5 million people in Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan and Uganda are already suffering from hunger and severe malnutrition.
“These infestations of hundreds of millions of locusts need to be quickly contained before the next main cropping season of March to July,” said Lydia Zigomo, the Regional Director of Oxfam in Horn, East and Central Africa (HECA).
“Ethiopia has been in a continuous drought since 2015 and then recently hit with floods that have all but destroyed the harvest.
“This locusts infestation has now destroyed hundreds of square kilometres of vegetation in the Amhara and Tigray regions since November 2019.
“The cyclone in early December 2019 made the presence of locusts stronger. Local authorities are addressing the situation, but they need more help,” Zigomo said.
Oxfam is now looking at ways of cushioning the communities in the areas hit by the swarms.
“We are making plans that include providing cash assistance to people most-in-need, particularly small-holder farmers and pastoralists, so they are able to buy food and fodder for their livestock,” said Zigomo
In Somalia, tens of thousands of hectares of land have been affected in Somaliland, Puntland and Galmudug (Mudug), as mature swarms hit the Garbahare area near the Kenyan border.
Locusts are also reported to be travelling south to Somalia’s Gedo region leaving a trail of destroyed farms.
13 Kenyan counties have also been affected. These include Isiolo, Samburu, Wajir, Garissa, Tana River, Marsabit, Laikipia, Mandera, Kitui, Baringo, Meru, Embu and Turkana.
Meanwhile, Central Bank of Kenya Governor Patrick Njoroge says investors will be driven away if the country does not solve the locust menace.
“This will affect food production in the country, and something should be done immediately to drive away from the locusts, also, investors will only shy away if it appears, we do not know what we are doing,” said Njoroge.
Njoroge said the plague will affect food production in the country and interfere with the performance of other sectors.
“This is a climate change issue and it is going to affect food production in the country and every other sector,” he added.
BY ODINDO AYIEKO