Hundreds of millions of desert locusts are swarming in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia—some of the biggest numbers seen in more than 25 years. Unusually wet weather in the area toward the end of 2019 has contributed to the massive outbreak, driving an explosion of locusts that are destroying crops and threatening food security across the region. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization is requesting international assistance to combat the swarms, and warning of the potential for massive growth if they are left unchecked.

Government has advised local farmers not to panic over the desert locusts that have invaded East Africa, as systems have been put in place to monitor their movement.

The invasion by the migratory pests poses a threat to food security in the sub region.

The locusts have so far affected Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia.

Zimbabwe is a member of the International Red Locust Control Organisation for Central and Southern Africa (IRLCO-CSA).

The IRLCO-CSA promotes and undertakes effective control of significant populations of red locusts in recognised outbreak areas in the territories of contracting governments.

The organisation also offers services within limits of resources in the coordination and reinforcement of national action in the region against red locust swarms, which escape from recognised outbreak areas.

The IRLCO-CSA also undertakes control of migrant pests in member countries, including armyworm, grain-eating birds and tsetse fly.

When one of the member states is attacked by locusts, the organisation dispatches planes and pesticides.

Department of the Plant Quarantine and Plant Protection Services Institute (PQPPSI) under the Department of Research and Specialist Services entomologist, Mr Shingirayi Nyamutukwa, said they were working with IRLCO-CSA in monitoring the movement of the pest.

If there are any indications they may come to Zimbabwe, farmers will be advised accordingly.

“We are monitoring the movement of locusts regionally to see which directions they are taking,” he said.

“We also receive reports and updates on the pests.

“We will be checking on the migration pattern of the swarms.

“If we see that they are coming, we will alert farmers.

“Mr Nyamutukwa said the outbreak of the locusts was a result of favourable breeding conditions.

Locusts feed on anything green and cause extensive damage and great loss.

“As they eat, they will be laying eggs and moving,” he said