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They have eaten everything: Worst Locust Swarm in Decades Destroy Crops in East Africa

(KATITIKA, Kenya) — Kenya and surrounding African Countries are facing dare and acute food shortage as  millions of desert locusts vigorously ravaging the part of African region. The farmers' efforts so far has done little to stop the voracious insects from feasting on their crops in this rural community.

Locusts can travel 93 miles a day, and each adult can eat its weight in food in the same time span. A small swarm can eat enough food to feed 35,000 people in 24 hours, The Associated Press reported, and the locusts have already infested around 172,973 acres of land in Kenya.

"The speed of the pests' spread and the size of the infestations are so far beyond the norm that they have stretched the capacities of local and national authorities to the limit," the FAO said, according to BBC News.
The worst outbreak of desert locusts in Kenya in 70 years has seen hundreds of millions of the bugs swarm into the East African nation from Somalia and Ethiopia. Those two countries have not had an infestation like this in a quarter-century, destroying farmland and threatening an already vulnerable region with devastating hunger.

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

"Vulnerable families that were already dealing with food shortages now face the prospect of watching as their crops are destroyed before their eyes," UN humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock told Kenya's Capital News.

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 U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization, as donors huddled in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, a three-hour drive away.

About $70 million is needed to step up aerial pesticide spraying, the only effective way to combat them, the U.N. says. That won’t be easy, especially in Somalia, where parts of the country are in the grip of the al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab extremist group.

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

One especially large swarm in northeastern Kenya measured 60 kilometers long by 40 kilometers wide (37 miles long by 25 miles wide).

Kenya needs more spraying equipment to supplement the four planes now flying, Tale said. Ethiopia also has four.

They also need a steady supply of pesticides, said Francis Kitoo, deputy director of agriculture in southeastern Kenya’s Kitui county.

“The locals are really scared because they can consume everything,” Kitoo said. “I’ve never seen such a big number.”

The UN funneled $10 million towards the spraying.

More: UN Warns 'Ravenous' Locusts Threatening East Africa


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