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IGAD region works towards containing the desert locust menace


The Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) has activated surveillance on transboundary pests as climatic conditions continue to provide conditions necessary for their survival.

The Igad region which brings together Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan and Uganda, has been in the throes of cyclic extreme weather events like droughts and floods that provide ample conditions for the survival of pests including the desert locusts, the Fall Army worm as well as the African Army worm and the Quelea birds.

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The desert locust which is the pest of interest in the region, saw swarms migrate to the Gulf of Eden where it is believed they have been breeding owing to the rainfall providing lush green vegetation that provides food to the pests.

According to experts, a few swarms had been spotted in parts of the Igad region but efforts by the Inter-Regional Platform for the Sustainable Management of Desert Locusts and other Trans-Boundary Pests, put together by Igad has been able to provide leadership and assistance to member states and has been able to put the situation under control.

“Provision of early warning information making sure that whenever locusts are detected as hoppers they are quickly contained within the shortest time before they become swarms has pushed the situation to low risk,” says Climate, Agriculture and Environment Monitoring Expert at the IGAD Climate Prediction and Applications Centre (ICPAC), Kenneth Mwangi and adds, “In parts of Ethiopia, Sudan and Eritrea there has been intense control whenever there is a detection because we have been sharing information prior.”

The experts have allayed fears saying that the situation is under control unlike what has happened in the past owing to prompt coordination by the regional partners.

Among the measures in place are; are early action which helps to prevent impacts of pest outbreaks; Continuous monitoring through inter-agency collaboration; Crisis communication has been integrated into National and Regional Pest Management Plans as well as the IGAD Pests Knowledge Management and Crisis Communication Strategy Plan

According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) few swarms that laid in Sudan and Somalia with other groups having been reported in Eritrea and Saudi Arabia, had hatched with hopper groups and bands increasing during the breeding in Sudan, Eritrea, Somalia, and Saudi Arabia, but they have been contained.

The desert locust is potentially the most dangerous of the locust pests because of the ability of swarms to fly rapidly across great distances. It has two to five generations per year. The pest is known to cause widespread damage to crops, as they are highly mobile and feed on large quantities of any kind of green vegetation, including crops, pasture, and fodder.

A typical swarm can be made up of 150 million locusts per square kilometre and fly in the direction of the prevailing wind, up to 150 kilometres in one day and therefore can be a threat to agricultural production and livelihoods in many countries in Africa.

At the same time, the heavy rainfall being experienced in the region as well as the cyclic extreme weather events are seeing an upsurge in pests, including the Fall Army Worm and African Army Worm, in the western part of Kenya and parts of Uganda. However, Mwangi says that owing to early action by the governments, constant surveillance as well as farmer networks, what would have resulted into an outbreak has already been contained and is under control. “These pests are easy to manage as their effects are very localised in specific farms and governments have excellent techniques and able to control,” says Mwangi.

Judith Akolo
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