Humans vs Locusts - Desert Locust Outbreak in Kenya - Control Operations in Turkana County

 

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) is fighting the ongoing infestations of Desert Locusts in East Africa where the locust situation remains a threat to people’s livelihood and food security. In Turkana County, Kenya, massive efforts have been done with both aerial and ground operations to control and contain a second-generation of locusts, either at hopper or at swarm stage.

The Desert Locust control operation in Turkana is a tandem operation between people on the ground and people in the air combining surveillance, verification and control.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) is fighting the ongoing infestations of Desert Locusts in East Africa where the locust situation remains a threat to people’s livelihood and food security.

Significant progress has been made in a number of countries, especially in Kenya, where just a few of the 29 counties that were infested in February 2020 have Desert Locusts today.

That is a success, but the threat of possible re-infestation towards the end of the year will call for careful and continued surveillance, warns FAO.

There is still a need to build up monitoring and response capacity across the region, to be ready if a renewed upsurge occurs.

From the beginning of January up until early August 2020 over 600,000 hectares have been controlled across the East Africa region.

So far, over a half a trillion locusts have been killed in the entire region, FAO estimates, and so were prevented from damaging crops and rangelands.

In Kenya, FAO has trained hundreds of National Youth Service (NYS) volunteers as part of its action plan to boost the government’s surveillance and control of the worst desert locust invasion the country has seen in 70 years.

In Turkana County, Kenya, massive efforts have been done with both aerial and ground operations to control and contain a second-generation of locusts, either at hopper or at swarm stage.

The Desert Locust control operation in Turkana is a tandem operation between people on the ground and people in the air combining surveillance, verification and control.

There is a window of opportunity of about four hours to spray in the morning before the locusts start flying and before the air temperature is too high.

First thing in the morning the helicopters are sent to verify if the Desert Locusts are still in the locations that were spotted and GPS tagged by ground surveillance crews the previous day. The spray aircraft loaded with pesticide target verified locations, respecting the no go areas such as homes, villages, water bodies, etc. and again informing communities.

Crews on the ground would engage with any residents near the area to inform them of the control activity and provide them with instructions on how to keep themselves or their animals safe.

Simultaneously, other aircraft that go on patrol flying low for three or four hours in search of new swarms. All the pilots have been trained to recognize the locusts when they are roosting on top of the trees. Once locusts are identified, people on the ground take a GPS location and then communicate that with the helicopter pilot who does a ground verification of the locusts and their stage of development. All this data is captured using FAO’s eLocust3 app so that it is fed back to FAO headquarters and informs the ability to monitor, predict and respond to global locust movements. That data stream coming from all the affected countries is critical for coordination and response.

From June to December many more people in the region could be severely food insecure due to Desert Locusts alone. But now with COVID-19 as an additional factor and the pre-existing caseload of people already food insecure prior to the upsurge, the situation in the region is quite dramatic.


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