East Africa is growing increasingly alarmed by the swarms of locust feasting on crops in an area already vulnerable to hunger.
Millions of insects have thrived off the crops of sorghum, millet, and maize in Somalia and Ethiopia, and there is little farmers can do to prevent them from gobbling up the valued grains necessary for people and livestock. Almost 172,973 acres of land in Kenya are infested, and a single locust swarm can contain up to 150 million locusts covering an area the size of 250 football fields, reported the AP.
“Corn, sorghum, cowpeas, they have eaten everything,” said Ndunda Makanga, a local farmer who spent hours trying to chase the locusts from his farm, to the AP. The family tried anything from banging on pots and pans, screaming, waving blankets, shaking tree branches, and even waving a shovel to convince the fast-breeding locusts to stop destroying their crops, all to no avail.
The United Nations states the region is in desperate need of $70 million to increase the supply of pesticides and aerial pesticide spraying, the only way to effectively combat the insects. Kenya and Ethiopia currently only have four planes each for aerial spraying.
“We must act immediately,” said David Phiri of the U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization, to potential donors in Nairobi, Kenya’s capital.
“The locals are really scared because they can consume everything,” said Francis Kitoo, deputy director of agriculture in southeastern Kenya’s Kitui county, to AP. He added: “I’ve never seen such a big number.”
To make matters worse, the locust swarms are moving towards hunger-stricken Uganda and the South Sudan, a region where almost 20 million people already face high levels of food insecurity.