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Taskforce formed to fight locusts

A coordinated multi-agency taskforce comprising national and county government officials has been put in place to ensure food security within the coastal county is not affected by pests including locusts that have already been sighted in Lamu.
Locust swarms have already been sighted by residents of Pandanguo, Mangai, Chalaluma, Maleli, Poromoko and Bargoni regions with the multi-agency team led by county agriculture officials spearheading the fight against them.
Speaking to KNA at the county government headquarters in Mokowe Friday following a meeting with national government official under the County Steering Group committee, Agriculture Chief Officer Dr. Charles Gichohi revealed that plans were already underway to get an initial 7,000 litres of pesticide that will be sprayed across farms and areas already affected by locusts.
“Besides the initial 7,000 liters of pesticide requested from the Ministry of Agriculture in Nairobi, the county government will train at least 40 extension officers on how to deal with the locust menace as a second line of response in tackling the pests,” Gichohi said.
He revealed that farmer sensitization forums will start effectively from this week in Hindi, Mpeketoni and Witu which are the key food basket areas.
“Chiefs will also be trained and sensitized on how to spread locust management and control awareness efforts among small scale subsistence farmers who are likely to bear the biggest brunt in the event that their crops are ravaged by the pest,” the Chief Officer said.
Accompanied by Lamu County Commissioner Irungu Macharia, the senior county agricultural official intimated that proper planning is needed in order for the county to prepare for a worst case scenario of the locusts affecting the county.
“Watermelons, Simsim, Maize and even sorghum are some of crops that the locust can affect, and with the failure of the short rains, a locust infestation could result to food scarcity for hundreds of residents,” he added.
National Drought Management Authority Lamu Coordinator Mohammed Dahir made similar sentiments adding that historically, this is the first time Lamu has had to face a locust infestation.
“There is no precedent, to inform us on how to effectively tackle a locust invasion in Lamu, and for now, a multi-agency response is needed to provide interventions that could avert a foreboding famine in the county,” Dahir stated.
Macharia stated that the Agriculture Cabinet Secretary is already aware of the locust invasion in Lamu with coordinated efforts set to start in order to ensure Lamu’s food basket areas are not grossly affected.
“As we await the mechanized aerial spraying of farms to begin, farmers will be sensitized on which pesticides to buy during public barazas that will be coordinated by chiefs and run by agricultural extension officers,” Macharia said.
Lamu Governor Fahim Twaha who spoke to KNA on phone stated that the county government besides the interventions already being put together by the multi-agency taskforce have also put together a county emergency response kitty to aid in providing relief for farmers and families that could be affected by the locusts.
“We appreciate support from the national government to provide interventions such as mechanized spraying and food relief in case there is a county wide disaster due to locusts,” the governor affirmed.

By Amenya Ochieng


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