Some of the bizarre methods local pastoralists are using to scare away invading locusts baffles pest experts
GARISSA—Swarms of locust from the neighboring Somalia invaded parts of Mandera and Wajir counties in what locals say is the worst in decades.
Since it was first sighted in parts of Tarbaj late last month, the locals have employed both traditional and modern techniques to scare away the pest that left a trail of destruction in its wake.
The Nation reported that the residents “have resorted to shouting, honking of vehicles, striking metallic objects and whistling to get rid of the insects.”
The local authorities engaged the security forces to scare away the pests using teargas and firing rubber bullets in the air to unsettle the then.
In some locations in Tarbaj Constituency, a contingent of police officers deployed to repel the militant group Al Shabab fired live bullets at the invading pests in what officials later said was a measure to “secure the residents.”
In some parts of Mandera, residents have started reading the Quran in groups in what they say is a way of appealing for spiritual help.
The local methods are beginning to yield results as initial swarms who settled in Kutulo in Tarbaj sub-county have now moved to Marsabit County through Tarbaj, Giriftu, Qara and lastly at Arbajahan before it crossed over to Marsabit.
Just as locals were sighing in relief, another desert locust from Ethiopia disturbed their peace. This swarm came into the county via Bute and Gurar areas in Wajir North before settling seven kilometres from Bute town.
The region’s residents rely mainly on pastoralism for their livelihood but are now worried that the pests could destroy vast grasslands leaving their livestock at risk of starvation.
The locust invasion in the country comes following another influx of the pests in some regions of Somalia.
Earlier this month the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) warned that the locusts may spread to other East African countries if measures were not taken to stop the invasion.
Wajir County government officials told Kulan Post that the nationals government is helping the local efforts with aerial spray using a helicopter.
“A vehicle carrying the pesticide is set to come after Monday,” Wajir agriculture chief officer Noor Mohammed said.
The legislators from the region has tasked the government to deal with the invasion, adding that initial warning by the FAO was not taken in earnest.
Addressing the press at Parliament Buildings, the lawmakers challenged the government to “swift critical measures to address the issue.”
Eldas MP, Aden Keynan said if the locals won’t be addressed comprehensively, “the residents will have nowhere to get food, nor will they be able to feed their animals.”
“We are appealing to the government to intervene and provide aerial sprays using Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs),” said Mr Keynan.
The government, though slowly, started aerial spray in Mandera County, officials said. The area senator, Mumad Noord said the locust feeds on such amount of vegetation as “25 camels per day.”
“The main source of livelihood in these affected areas is livestock and the destructive nature of these pests cannot be ignored. They destroy vegetation enough to feed about 25 camels in a day. They could wipe out the country’s vegetation cover in six months,” the senator during the presser at the parliament.
According to experts, the successful prevention of desert locust plagues relies on regular monitoring in the desert, early warning, and timely response.