East Africa hit by second wave of locust swarms
JOHANNESBURG - The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations has on Monday announced that East Africa has been hit hard by a second wave of desert locust in recent weeks.
Heavy rains and a late-season cyclone sparked a new round of breeding, with swarms invading Kenya and southern Ethiopia.
FAO said the locust infestation in Africa remained “extremely alarming” as more swarms were forming and maturing in Kenya and Ethiopia, The Jerusalem Post reported on Monday.
The resurgence of the locust plague coincides with the planting season and presents an “unprecedented threat” to food security, according to the UN.
"The last time Africa saw an upsurge of locusts approaching this scale, in the Sahel, it took two years and more than US$500 million to bring under control. This upsurge was even bigger, but East Africa is poised to end it – provided governments can keep those aircraft flying," said FAO Deputy Director-General Laurent Thomas.
"The locust-fighting machine that has been assembled in East Africa is now fully equipped and able to contain, suppress and, we believe, eventually end this record-breaking upsurge."
The second wave includes more young adults, which inherit gregarious behaviours from the previous generation and are particularly rapacious eaters.
The first wave of locusts was reported in East Africa in January last year, when heavy rains sparked a round of large-scale breeding, according to FAO.
As conditions remain dry in some areas, the swarms were expected to disperse throughout southern and northern Ethiopia and north-central Kenya.
FAO said any rainfall that occurs in the coming weeks will cause swarms to mature and lay eggs that will hatch and give rise to hopper bands during February and March.
Intense ground and aerial control operations were in progress in both countries to reduce current swarm populations so that the scale of the upcoming breeding may be lower.