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Innovation

Kenya Has An Invasion And Here Is How They Plan To Deal With It

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Turkana sub-county crops officer Alfons Aurun displays the E-locust phone app at his office in the town of Lodwar, Turkana county, Kenya, July 2, 2020, in this picture grab taken from a video. REUTERS/Baz Ratner

Every country in the world has been dealing with COVID-19 for months now. However, some have peculiar problems they don’t share with the rest of the world. One of such countries in Africa is Kenya. The East African nation is battling to contain locust invasion—and they are not winning the war. However, the country hopes to turn the tide with a new app called E-Locust.

The eggs from the first swarm have hatched and the young locust generation is brooding on trees, grasses, and shrubs. Consequently, it is only a matter of days or weeks before their wings become hard enough for them to swarm and devour every green leaf on their path. Their voracious appetite is a threat to food security in the entire region. One user of the app, Christopher Achilo said to Reuters,

“One locust eats food equal to his weight (every day), so imagine having millions of locusts, if you cannot even see over the trees. Within some time, all the trees are just naked. Even they go inside the farms, they strip the farms, so it is a very big impact on food security.”

What is E-Locust?

E-Locust serves as an early warning tool for Desert Locust. It has been proven to be effective in the recording and transmission of data for the monitoring of pests. Achilo is one of the scouts trained by aid group ACTED with the help of the United Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the Turkana County regional government. The work of Achilo and his team is to scout for locust.

On sighting any locust population, the scouts take their pictures using E-Locust. The information is sent to a database in Lodwar, Turkana County’s main town. Another team collects the information and deploys the right personnel to spray the insects with pesticides. This helps to prevent the forming of a swarm.

Kenya is not the only country suffering from the locust invasion. In fact, 19 frontline countries cut across Northwest, West, East, and Northeast Africa, Southwest Asia, and Arabia are affected. According to the World Bank, the locust swarm may cost Yemen and East Africa $8.5 billion this year.

Why Locust Invasion is a Serious Issue

Locust swarms are resilient and can travel 150 km (93 miles) a day with the help of the wind. A locust swarm of about one square kilometer can consume as much food as thirty-five thousand people. The FAO predicts the swarm formation in Kenya will continue until mid-July. Also, reports have it that with the help of E-Locust, officials treated about 30,830 hectares against locust.

Hitherto, the greatest challenge in the fight against locust invasion is the availability of real-time information. Up until 1995, the FAO’s Desert Locust Information Service (DLIS) managed data using paper and pencil. That form of data management always kept authorities a step behind the locust swarm’s formation and migration.

With the E-Locust app, authorities can now spot and kill the locusts before the formation of swam. However, the success depends on the expertise and dedication of the locust scouts. What other steps do you think the government can take to stop the locust invasion and ensure food security? Let us hear your opinion in the comment box below.

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