There’s a surge of an estimated 200 billion desert locusts that have invaded parts of Kenya from Ethiopia to the north, and Somalia to the east. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, this nasty development comes about 70 years after locusts last invaded Kenya. Experts say if the surge continues then the pests could also invade Tanzania.
It is for fear of this happening that the government has started taking measures designed to effectively combat the menace if and when it hits Tanzania. Desert locusts are a gregarious species whose swarms threaten agricultural production.
For starters, the government has already hired two locust spraying planes from the Addis Ababa-based Desert Locust Control Organisation for Eastern Africa, and one of Zambia-based International Red Locust Control Organization for Central and Southern Africa.
As Tanzania is a member of both organisations, it will only be required to pay the planes’ crews and related operational costs, Agriculture minister Japhet Hasunga said. The minister also said that over 7,000 litres of pesticides have been purchased for that purpose.
While we commend the government for taking these measures, we urge authorities to keep the public informed about what must be done at the local level in readiness for the invasion.
For example, the government must provide education on how people can identify the locusts so that they would inform appropriate bodies for immediate action.
But, since agricultural production would be affected should the locusts invade, it is advisable that the people be educated on best practices on food preservation.
For example, it may be wise to make early harvest of what is already mature instead of leaving it on the farm, but also people must ensure that they don’t waste any food so that there would be reserve food in case of shortages as a result of locust invasion.
Food security is of paramount importance for development and must be taken seriously.