How is the locust infestation expected to affect the economy and food security?
Kenya’s desert locust invasion—the worst in 70 years—has mainly affected the northern region of the country and already poses a severe food security threat to about 3 million people. Swarms started crossing the border into Kenya from Ethiopia and Somalia on 28 December 2019 and have since spread to 28 counties. The infestation poses a risk to food security, undermining economic growth. The next generation started forming swarms in April 2020, which coincides with the start of the next seasonal rains and the main planting season for East Africa.
Preliminary estimates early last month indicated that the swarms had flattened about 175,000 hectares of crop and pastureland upsetting the livelihoods of nearly 164,000 households.
Kenya is entering this crisis with important sources of economic resilience, but also significant fiscal constraints. While real gross domestic product growth has been robust over the last five years (5.7%), the macroeconomic environment has been stable, and the financial sector is sound, the high government debt burden and wide budget deficit leave little fiscal space to deal with emergencies such as the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic and the desert locust invasion.
Despite efforts to control the locusts, the food security of nearly 3 million vulnerable households is at risk. The greatest impacts will be felt by households that depend on livestock and cropping.
Increasing food insecurity and loss of livelihood income will have a significant impact on human capital, as people forgo investments on adequate food, nutrition, and education. Increasing food prices that are likely due to the locust attack could further debilitate food consumption in poorer households, pushing them towards less nutritious foods and towards eating next season's seed, selling off productive assets, withdrawing children from school, and other negative coping mechanisms to meet short- term needs. Studies of past locust plagues found a notable decrease in school enrollment in boys and girls in areas affected by locusts as well as evidence of stunting in infants and children.
What has the government of Kenya done so far? How are the government and the World Bank coordinating with development partners?
In response to the locust attack, the Government of Kenya, in collaboration with county governments and other development partners, has been undertaking control operations. The Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries has been working closely with the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) of the United Nations (UN) to take up aerial and ground control of the locusts in the affected regions. Six control bases have been established in Wajir, Isiolo, Turkana, Marsabit, Masinga, and Garissa to coordinate control interventions in the affected areas and spraying and surveillance aircrafts have been deployed to the affected areas as have ground control equipment. The primary strategy has been to target breeding grounds and control hopper bands while they are still at the nymph stage before they can fly, and identification of the breeding grounds continues.
The Bank is coordinating closely with regional bodies and UN agencies, among them, the Desert Locust Control Organization of East Africa (DLCO-EA), Inter-governmental Association for Development (IGAD), FAO and the World Food Programme (WFP), as well as other regional and international research organizations with established knowledge of desert locust control processes.
How will this project support Kenya to manage the locust crisis?
The project will support interventions to:
- Limit the growth of existing desert locust populations and curb their spread through surveillance and control measures, while mitigating the risks associated with control measures and their impacts on human health and the environment;
- Help protect the poor and vulnerable in locust affected areas from human capital and asset loss, enhance their access to food, and restore livelihoods that have been damaged or destroyed by swarms; and
- Enhance national capacity for surveillance and control operations to facilitate early warning and early response are needed including establishing and strengthening a Locust Control Unit (LCU)within the Plant Protection Services Division (PPSD) of MoALFC at the national level to prevent future outbreaks from spiraling out of control.
Activities to limit the growth and spread of locusts include ground surveying and other data collection methods to assess the locust situation and habitat conditions and collecting and analyzing data to inform planning, to identify and plan control targets and to ensure appropriate control methods are applied at the optimal time to break the cycle of the next generation.
Another key set of interventions would be to help protect the poor and vulnerable in locust affected areas from human capital and asset loss, enhance their access to food, and restore livelihoods that have been damaged or destroyed by swarms.
This would be achieved by undertaking the following interventions:
- Providing grants for input support through the existing mechanisms of micro projects to get crop and livestock production restored as soon as possible after the impact. The input support would typically include crop seeds/seedlings, fodder seeds/seedlings; crop nutrition and protection inputs, animal health inputs; and in some cases, animal breeds for restocking
- Providing grants to strengthen farmer producer organizations (as implemented under the ongoing KCSAP and NARIGP projects) for ease in access of input, service and output markets for sustainable restoration of their livelihoods and
- Community and multi-community investments through the existing mechanisms of sub projects (as implemented under the ongoing KCSAP and NARIGP projects) for restoration of degraded pasturelands and water sources.
Lastly, the project will invest in systems to prevent future outbreaks from spiraling out of control by establishing and strengthening a Locust Control Unit (LCU) within the Plant Protection Services Division (PPSD) of MoALFC at the national level to prevent future outbreaks from spiraling out of control. This will include working with the impacted counties and advocating for the establishment of similar locust control units at the county level, monitoring weather trends and normal desert locust territory to identify the conditions for an outbreak and early population increases; establishing communication/notification systems and protocols through international, regional, and national bodies so that warnings are not missed and that recipients of warnings understand the importance of the information establishing linkages with international and regional, bodies and developing standard operating procedures for a desert locust response; and supporting existing manufacturers to build the capacity to produce sufficient quantities of quality biopesticide for use early on in future outbreaks.
How will efforts be coordinated across multiple countries in the region?
A multi-Institutional technical team (MITT) on Desert Locusts has been set up in Kenya to serve as the main policy and technical advisory body supporting the Ministry of Agriculture to proactively address the locust crisis facing Kenya. Members of the MITT are drawn from the Ministry of Agriculture- Plant Protection services, Kenya Agricultural Research Organization , Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service , Pest Control products Board , DLCO-EA, FAO, University of Nairobi (UoN), International Centre for Insect Physiology and Ecology, Centre for Agricultural and Biosciences International, Joint Agriculture Secretariat and Council of Governors. The MITT will provide technical guidance to the ministry, counties and any other stakeholders on desert locust management; collect and collate technical information on integrated Desert locust management, build capacity among stakeholders, especially agricultural extension providers; and propose strategies for sustainable management of desert locust. Coordination with other countries in the region will be led by the Ministry with advice and inputs from the above regional and international organizations within the MITT.
What measures have been taken to ensure that biopesticides used to control locust swarms do not pose an additional environmental and health threat to affected communities?
Working closely with FAO and other entities like the Kenya Agriculture and Livestock Research Organization, the premier national research institution in the agriculture sector, the use of technology including growth regulators and bio-pesticides, will be utilized in a carefully managed way in ground and aerial spraying. Every effort will be made to optimize the selection of control strategies, protection measures, and insecticides based on situational and environmental assessments so that risks can be minimized. Monitoring and assessing environmental and human health risks will be conducted to inform the implementation of health, environmental and safety measures to the reduce risks of biopesticides. Activities will include testing human health and soil and water for pesticide contamination; estimating the cost and the effects of the locust control on crop, pastures and livestock production; and providing safety and awareness training for spraying teams and other locust control personnel. Public awareness campaigns and a robust communication strategy will keep the public informed about possible environmental and health effects of insecticides, before, during and after locust control operations.