Munya says 'unreliable' FAO projections impeding fight against locusts

Desert locusts in Meru

Desert locusts are pictured at Mitunguu along Kithino River in Meru County on February 14, 2020. 

Photo credit: David Muchui | Nation Media Group

Projections by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) on the movement and behaviour of locusts has been unreliable and misleading, Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya has said, attributing it to lack of proper equipment.

The minister said Thursday that the information has hampered the government’s efforts to track and fight the marauding pests.

CS Munya noted that the invasion in Kenya worsens every day as the locusts spread to more regions and their behaviour becomes more unpredictable.

He added that the pests have been moving to Kenya from neighbouring countries which have not tightened measures to combat them.

“It’s very unpredictable because they are coming from outside the country and the tracking outside the country is not very accurate. The FAO is supporting us with projections because they have offices in those countries. They have the technology but even their instruments for tracking are quite limited. They are not very well-developed,” CS Munya said.

“So they tell you that you will get such a number of swarms (and then) they don’t come, or they come [but the swarms are] more than what you were told [sic]. It’s a big challenge so we are deploying all the resources at our disposal to contain it.”

Progress made

CS Munya said the invasion is slowly becoming a normality in the country, which he noted is a sign of climate change.

He added, however, that the government has succeeded in clearing most of the first swarm that attacked the country last year.

“But because we could not do anything in Ethiopia, South Sudan, Yemen, Eritrea and Somalia, swarms are coming and the winds are now blowing to our side,” Mr Munya said.

He said the government has deployed aircraft, vehicles and people to conduct spraying in counties in the Northern Frontier including Laikipia, Samburu, Meru and Tharaka Nithi.

“We are not yet out of danger but we are managing … we are improving our capacity as we move on,” the CS said.

The invasion was one of the main challenges in Kenya’s resilient agricultural sector, which was among the few that remained steady as many were battered by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Economic projection reports from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS), the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) and other bodies warn that the sector may still be affected and have low yields this year, if the invasions are not contained.