Locusts invasion: Rwanda on alert

The minister in charge of Agriculture and animal resources in Rwanda has put the country on alert following locusts invasion in the neighboring countries.

Minister Mukeshimana briefs the media on the status of agriculture sector on Tuesday in Kigali. She said measures should be taken to control locusts in case they spread into Rwanda./New Times-Rwanda

This is after the locusts invaded several  countries in the Eastern African region, among them Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia with the possibility of spreading further.

Though they have not yet crossed into Rwanda, Geraldine Mukeshimana, has said the country was in a position to tackle the threat.

“If they do not spread to Rwanda, well and good. But, in case they cross the border, people should get ready to fight them as they did the fall armyworm,” she observed.

“Farmers should be prepared, visit their farms so that we can partner to combat the pest in case its strikes,” the minister said.

FILE PHOTO: A motorist drives within desert locusts near a grazing land on the outskirt of Dusamareb in Galmudug region, Somalia December 22, 2019. /REUTERS/Feisal Omar

Locusts started to cross into Kenya around December 28, 2019, initially destroying pastures in semi-arid counties mainly occupied by pastoralist communities.

Early December 2019, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warned that desert locusts, which had hit first Ethiopia and Somalia, would spread to other Eastern Africa countries including Djibouti, Eritrea, Kenya and South Sudan if early and sustained measures were not taken.

The UK news agency, Reuters, reported that they had already destroyed over 70,000 hectares (175,000 acres) of farmland in Somalia and Ethiopia, threatening food supplies and livelihoods of farming communities in both countries in the worst locust invasion in 70 years

An average swarm will destroy crops that could feed 2,500 people for a year, FAO said. A desert locust swarm can be 460 square miles in size and pack between 40 and 80 million insects into less than half a square mile.

Each locust can eat its weight in plants each day, so a swarm of such size would eat 423 million pounds of plants every day.

The World Economic Forum says that one of the most effective ways to avoid the devastating effects of locust plagues is to prevent them from occurring in the first place.

Under this method, it said, considerable resources are allocated to early warning and preventive control strategies whereby locust monitoring stations collect data on weather, ecological conditions and locust numbers, making forecasts of the timing and location of breeding.