Only two of the 29 Kenyan counties that were overrun by swarms of desert locusts still have the pests, according to the United Nations agency leading the fight against the widespread infestation that’s the worst in East Africa in at least two decades.
“In the coming days, that will drop to one county, and within three weeks Kenya should be free of large-scale infestations altogether,” according to Cyril Ferrand, the Food and Agricultural Organization’s Resilience Team Leader for East Africa.
The agency will maintain surveillance to reduce the risk of re-infestation toward the end of the year, according to a statement on its website. Efforts will be focused on Turkana in northern Kenya, where the most recent swarms have been located, Ferrand said.
Ethiopia has not been so lucky. It has a second generation breeding, has been partly re-infested by swarms from Kenya and is under threat from new arrivals from Yemen, Ferrand said. While there is progress in Somalia, reproduction is expected in the north of the country and summer locust breeding is anticipated in the Sudan and western Eritrea, he said.
A second wave of the infestation threatens livelihoods and food security as farmers prepare to harvest crops, the FAO said in May. More than 25 million hectares (61.8 million acres) of farmland were affected in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia — the three countries hardest hit by the voracious insects, Gro Intelligence said in April.
FAO estimates it controlled the highly mobile swarms in nearly 600,000 hectares during the first six months of the year, which meant killing more than 400 billion of the pests that can move as far as 150 kilometers a day.
“We cannot defeat an upsurge of desert locusts globally in only a few months,” Ferrand said. “When it comes to East Africa, we have made a lot of progress in the entire region, where expertise was very low at the beginning.”