Residents of Marsabit County who are predominantly pastoralists are faced with a threat to their livelihood and the general economy of the area following an invasion by the desert locusts.
Consequently an appeal for immediate help from the government and donors has been sent out by the County Director of Agriculture, Julius Gitu, saying more than 50,000 hectares that both supports crop and livestock production was under threat.
Gitu said that the invasion by the locusts that spread from neighbouring counties of Wajir and Mandera has hit hard parts of the County, especially Saku Constituency where residents practice agro-pastoralism.
“The livelihood of locals is at stake as farm crops such as maize, beans and cowpeas are now at risk of being destroyed by the desert locusts,” he said.
The recently ample rainfall received in Marsabit County had supported regeneration of both vegetation and pasture as well as crop production which was now being ruined by the infestation of the locusts.
Depletion of pasture would result in food insecurity and low trade due to reduced milk, beef and crop production.
The Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries County Executive (CEC), Mohammed Omar, said that the locusts invaded the County through Shurr, a strategic grazing reserve area, before landing on at least six roosting zones.
Omar said the desert locust perching areas in Marsabit has currently spread to over 70 kilometres from Qubi Qallo to Dogogicha in Sagante-Jaldesa Ward alone and appealed to the National Government for assistance.
The CEC noted with concern that 15 minutes landing of the insects in some farmlands in Dogogicha area had caused great havoc on crops, adding that Moyale Sub-county was equally hard hit by the infestation.
“The National Government is In-Charge of the animal and insect protection and should act with speed in providing, spraying pesticides to help decimate these swarms of locusts,” he appealed, adding that the County Government has great shortage of the equipment and pesticides.
Omar disclosed that surveillance and mapping of the locusts perching areas and the coordinates to aid in spraying had been sent to the Ministry of Agriculture, adding that National Government was expected to start aerial spraying in the mapped areas.
According to Omar, Marsabit was currently the locust harboring zone and the insatiable insects were likely to spread to all parts of East Africa if not controlled on time.
Residents expressed shock at the turn of events soon after the heavy rains, saying that the locusts were feeding on every green vegetation that include grass hence threatening their mainstay of animal keeping.
Marsabit County is one region in Kenya that is highly reeling on malnutrition and the attack on the pasture and crops by the desert locusts could worsen the situation.
By Sebastian Miriti