‘Black skies’ in East Africa as millions of locusts swarm farmlands

Desert locusts have swarmed into Kenya by the hundreds of millions from Somalia and Ethiopia, countries that haven’t seen such numbers in a quarter-century, destroying farmland and threatening an already vulnerable region. (Photo: MarketWatch.com)

The worst locust plague in decades continues to devastate farmlands in sections of Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia – exacerbating food security concerns for more than 11 million people in East Africa.

It’s a plague of Biblical proportions, BUZZ fam!

Hundreds of millions of desert locusts flying from Yemen, encouraged by heavy rains in late 2019, made the trip across the Red Sea; hitting Ethiopia and Somalia first with their worst locust swarms in 25 years.

According to the BBC, some farmers in Ethiopia’s Amhara region lost 100 percent of their crops, and a swarm forced an Ethiopian passenger plane off course in December.

The locusts have sparked a new concern, as the insects seem to be feeding and spreading faster that local authorities can get their numbers down.

Cowpeas, corn and sorghum crops have been particularly devastated by the locusts.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) warns that 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.

Climate change is being linked to the exponential influx of locusts, as unusually heavy rainfall and warmer temperatures become the perfect mix of conditions to spur their reproduction.

Kenya, with skies turned black, is reeling from the locust infestation as the insects migrate south in search of food. Already, over 70,000 hectares of farmland have been ravaged – marking Kenya’s worst locust swarm in 70 years.

A man runs through a swarm of desert locusts in Kenya. (Photo: South China Morning Post)

The United Nations pledged US$10 million last Wednesday to combat the locust crisis, however, more than US$70 million is needed to effectively control the ongoing infestation.

To date, aerial sprays over the clouds of locusts are the only combat measures at the region’s disposal but — as a small swarm of the insects can consume enough food for 35,000 people in a single day — time may be running out.