Monday, February 3, 2020

KISII REPORT - LOCUSTS!

During the past couple of weeks it has sometimes seemed to me that here in America we have mostly been riveted to either the impeachment trials or the super bowl and little else.

One of these hopefully will soon come to an end soon, with predictably one half of the nation happy about the outcome and, in our new Divided States of America, one half angry about it.
 
The other event took place last evening on Sunday, I suppose with one half of football fans happy about it and the other half not happy, but hopefully not angry.
 
But while our TV’s have been burning the images of those two events into our visual receivers and brains, other things have been happening in the world—important things. For those concerned about human life, very important things.
 
For the past couple of weeks I have been reading about what may be a looming food crisis in Kenya. If you have been following the Kisii Reports of the past, you know that for the past couple of years, Kenya has been suffering cycles of unusually heavy rains (as is occurring right now), which then moves to drought. This has made all food prices rise significantly.

But now, a new and potentially much worse problem is on the horizon. It is literally on the horizon right now in the eastern part of the country. Instead of telling you about it, I will just quote clippings from a couple of newspapers. Photos of images from the internet browser, and one from a Kenyan newspaper online edition:  

Before getting to the newspaper articles, I would like to remind you that at the orphanage, they receive NO help from the government, NONE from the UN or other international government organizations, NOTHING from any Christian mission organization or any other NGO.
Their ONLY outside help comes from readers of this blog. It you want to help, read the articles or at least scroll to the bottom and read  how you can do that.
EVERY NICKLE of you gift goes to the children. NOTHING is diverted to another purpose.


*******The Guardian (UK)—January 17, 2020
The UN has warned of a “significant and extremely dangerous” escalation in the number of desert locusts descending on Kenya, as the government strives to contain the threat before it reaches the country’s food-producing regions.

The tropical grasshoppers have been wreaking havoc on Kenya’s neighbours to the north and east, devouring tens of thousands of hectares of crops in Ethiopia and Somalia since last June.

Swarms crossed over into north-east Kenya on 28 December. In a statement released on Monday, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) predicted that their “potential spread” could include the breadbasket counties of central Kenya.

 
If it does, the insects could destroy crucial parts of the country’s food supply, at a time when food insecurity is already on the rise owing to droughts and floods last year.

 
Each square kilometre of locusts in a swarm can eat as much in a day as 35,000 people can eat, according to the FAO. One locust swarm seen in Kenya measured 2,400 sq km. (100 hectare in a square kilometer)

 
“There is an unprecedented threat to food security and livelihoods” across the Horn of Africa, the FAO said.

 
Kenya’s newly appointed agriculture minister, Peter Munya, announced on Wednesday that the government has allocated nearly $300,000 (£229,000) to fight the threat. As the swarms in Kenya haven’t yet reached maturity, Mwangi is optimistic about cutting off the worst threat – mature locusts laying eggs and giving rise to even larger swarms in a few weeks when they hatch.

 
He said the swarms were another blow to farmers already reeling from natural disasters last year.

 
“Those farmers that were not affected by the floods are affected by the locusts,” he said. “They have created another disaster on top of the current one.”

 
And the threat is not over yet. Swarms have laid eggs in northern Somalia that are now hatching and may migrate again, in even larger numbers, according to Abdurahman Hussein Ismail, a migratory pests expert and director of the Somaliland environmental and agricultural protection institute.

 
“Locusts are highly mobile and destructive,” he said, adding that they can travel up to 150 km per day. “The situation is very, very serious.” 
 

********Daily Mail (UK)—February 1, 2020

 
Shocking pictures show the scale of the worst outbreak of desert locusts in Kenya in 70 years as hundreds of millions of the insects leave helpless farmer heartbroken.

 
The creatures have invaded the East African country from Somalia
and Ethiopia, destroying farmland and threatening an already vulnerable region with devastating hunger.

 
Ndunda Makanga, who spent hours Friday trying to chase the locusts from his farm, said: 'Even cows are wondering what is happening. Corn, sorghum, cowpeas, they have eaten everything.'

 
When rains arrive in March and bring new vegetation across much of the region, the numbers of the fast-breeding locusts could grow 500 times before drier weather in June curbs their spread, the United Nations says.

 
'We must act immediately,' said David Phiri of the UN Food and Agricultural Organization, as donors huddled in Kenya's capital, Nairobi, a three-hour drive away.

 
About $54million is needed to step up aerial pesticide spraying, the only effective way to combat them, the UN says.

 
That will not be easy, especially in Somalia, where parts of the country are in the grip of the al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab extremist group.

 
The rose-coloured locusts turn whole trees pink, clinging to
branches before taking off in clouds. Children have been seen waving blankets or plucking at branches to shake the locusts free.

 
Even a small swarm of the insects can consume enough food for 35,000 people in a single day, said Jens Laerke of the UN humanitarian office in Geneva.

 
Farmers are afraid to let their cattle out for grazing and their crops of millet, sorghum and maize are vulnerable, but there is little they can do.

 
About 70,000 hectares - 172,973 acres - of land in Kenya are
already infested.

 
'This one, ai! This is huge,' said Kipkoech Tale, a migratory pest control specialist with the agriculture ministry.

 
A single swarm can contain up to 150million locusts per square kilometer of farmland, an area the size of almost 250 football fields, regional authorities say.

 
One especially large swarm in northeastern Kenya measured 37 miles long by 25 miles wide.

 
The locusts are moving steadily toward Ethiopia's Rift Valley, the breadbasket for Africa's second-most populous country, the UN says.

 
Even before this outbreak, nearly 20million people faced high levels of food insecurity across the East African region long challenged by periodic droughts and floods. 

 

**********The Standard (Kenya)—February 3, 2020


 
Armed with a sizable piece of iron sheet and a stick, Julius Maluki moves from one corner of his farm to another hitting a plate incessantly and producing ear-piercing noise that can be heard from across his farm.

 
The farmer, who has grown maize and cow peas, shouts himself hoarse while stomping his feet hard on the ground.

 
As he does this, a small swarm of desert locusts, part of thousands upon thousands that invaded his farm at Enziu village and several other parts of Mwingi region fly just above his head and perch in nearby trees. The bulk of the insects is unmoved.

 
Maluki hopes the noise, coupled with his other gymnastics, will scare the ravenous insects away. However, from all indications, his efforts are a desperate exercise in futility.

 
“We have resorted to using rudimentary methods to chase the locusts away, but they have proven stubborn. I can only watch as they consume my crops away,” says Maluki, his face showing clear signs of giving up.

 
That was last week. Today, Maluki says the insects have rendered him destitute, having decimated the cowpeas and green grams on his three-acre farm.

 
Maluki had expected to harvest at least 20 90-kilogramme bags of cow peas, but the unwelcome visitors have left him counting losses.

 
Esther Kyalo, a farmer from the neighbouring Nguni area, is in a similar predicament. Her lush crop of green grams was reduced to ugly strands as the locusts devoured all the leaves.

 
“I was looking forward to a bumper harvest of 15 90-kilogramme bags of green grams but now there is nothing left. Does it mean the government has no capacity to contain this menace?” she asked.

 
A kilogramme of green grams goes for between Sh50 and Sh70 in local markets.

 
In Mutwangombe, within the same neighbourhood, Theophilus Kimanzi, who grows millet and green grams, is also counting losses. The locusts descended on his farm and in two days, decimated every strand of millet and green grams.

 
“I depend on farming for my livelihood. I even borrowed money to buy those seeds. Now I don’t know what to do because all the crop has been destroyed,” Kimanzi lamented.

 
“We are tired of screaming and hollering in farms to make noise. The three aerial spraying conducted so far have had zero results. We want the government to come up with a better and more effective measure to kill the locusts,” he added.

 
According to farmers, the pests have become bolder, fiercer and more organised in their invasion and terror. Within one week, they terrorised farmers in many other parts of Mwingi region.

 
The highlight of this ugly spectacle was last Sunday evening when a cloud of locusts kicked off their flight from Waita, and in their millions overflew Mwingi town and in record time pitched camp in Migwani market – some 35km away - much to the chagrin of local farmers.

 
The following morning, they descended on farms within Kyamboo and Thokoa villages pulverising the farms and scaring school-going children.

 
“The aerial spraying did not work. They are not dying and the government should come up with a more effective drug. The damage on crops is unimaginable,” said Martha Ngumbau from Mathiakani area of Mwingi Central.

 
The farmers now want the government to compensate them for their losses.

 
The United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has made a preliminary appeal of Sh7 billion ($70 million) to facilitate the fights against desert locusts that have ravaged 13 counties.

 
“More reliable figures on this will be available in the coming days. Already some 3.1 million people in Kenya are projected to be highly food insecure between August and October 2019,” said Hamisi.

 
It was only on January 14 that Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya said the Government had injected Sh230 million to support the fight against the swarms, which by then had affected eight counties. He did not disclose how much had been used in the past.

 
The Principal Secretary State Department for Crop Development and Agricultural Research said that 20,000 litres of chemicals had so far been used in the fight.

 
“The ministry will not do the estimation of the losses; there will be another agency to do that. At the moment, we are concerned with locating the swarms and spraying them,” he said.

 
Hamadi said despite the challenges that also include high cost of purchasing pesticides, the fight against the destructive swarms would continue to prevent further losses that may lead to food insecurity in the country.

 
Hamadi said many challenges were watering down efforts to contain the locusts. The expected changes include the blow of wind to drive the swarms out of the country and end of persistent rains that grant the locusts a fertile ground for breeding.

 
The PS blamed laxity in Somalia, where locusts were coming from, and unreliability of the ongoing aerial spraying. The country has since declared the invasion an emergency.

 
Hamadi said aerial spraying that was currently being used was faced with many challenges that limited its efficiency.

 
“The effectiveness of the spraying depends on how it is executed. Many things can go wrong. You must know the direction the wind is blowing and the height the plane flies also affects the spraying. If the pilot is afraid of flying low enough, then it is bound to miss the target,” said Hamadi.

 
Questions have also arisen on safety of the chemicals being used in spraying the pests.

 
The National Climate Change Secretariat and the East Africa Climate Change Network (EACCNET) had advocated alternative method of fighting the swarms over fear of environmental hazards.

 
“The pesticides are safe just like other pesticides use in agriculture,” PS Hamadi said as he dismissed claims that the pesticides were posing health risks to people and animals.


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