Sky turns dark as devastating locust swarm destroys crops – farmers ordered to burn tyres

Kenya: Desert locusts return to country

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Farmers in the Omusati region are battling to protect their crops against vast, dark clouds of ravenous insects and have been urged to burn tyres to keep them away from their land. Local councillor Immanuel Shikongo said the invasion of the orange-brown locusts began earlier this week.

I would like to urge our people to yell and burn tyres when they see locusts in their mahangu fields

Immanuel Shikongo

Mr Shikongo told The Namibian newspaper: “Residents there chased the insects, and it flew to villages such as Oshitukafitu and Ombandjele. Many crops have been destroyed.”

He said the insects were a threat to crops and to grazing areas as they devour both crops and grass.

Mr Shikongo said local police tried to scare the insects away with their sirens.

He said: “I would like to urge our people to yell and burn tyres when they see locusts in their mahangu fields.

“They need to stay at home so that if the swarm comes, they can be able to chase it. Our people should work as a team.”

Farmer Kosmas Moongela said the swarm looks like a dark cloud as it moves through the sky.

Ministry of Agriculture spokesman Magreth Kalo said officials were aware of the situation and had sent a team to assess and spray the area with insecticide.

Ohangwena regional governor Walde Ndevashiya urged farmers to remain calm.

He said: “I received a video clip of the invasion of locusts from our consulate in Angola, but a few hours later the councillor of Ongenga called me and informed me that the locusts had crossed the border and were moving into the region.

“We were on the ground early on Sunday morning. Quite a huge area was affected, but the agriculture team killed some of them.”

Aid organisation fear the locust swarms which have been plaguing parts of Africa since last year could spark a global food crisis.

A state of emergency was declared in Somalia in February as the country struggled to contain the locust swarms of biblical proportion.

Kenya bore the brunt of the locust invasions last month and farmers fear another wave of insects could wipe out their maize and tea harvest.

Mary Mwatha, a local official in Kenya, said: “The moment these locusts come in, you find that they are consuming everything, everything that is green that they find.

“I am actually very afraid, and I am pleading for any assistance.”

The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) issued a warning over a new wave of locust swarms returning to Africa at the start of the year.

Officials suggested favourable weather conditions and widespread seasonal rains had led to a jump in locust breeding in eastern Ethiopia and Somalia, an effect even made worse by Cyclone Gati.

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In a statement, the UN body warned that “rains and winds are two of the most favourable conditions for desert locusts to multiply rapidly and spread to areas where they had been under control”.

Dominique Burgeon, the FAO’s director of emergencies and resilience, warned that the 2021 swarms could be even deadlier than the 2020 swarms.

Countries such as Somalia are already facing a humanitarian crisis following a COVID-19 outbreak and floods.

Other East African countries including Uganda, South Sudan, Eritrea and Djibouti are also at risk of devastation from locust invasions.

The locusts could also impact the food security of millions from the Horn of Africa to Yemen.

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