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After a swarm of desert locusts arrived in East Africa in January, infesting over 172,000 acres of farmland, a new wave of locusts is now invading the region.

The second wave consists of billions of young locusts and is 20 times larger than the original swarm, posing an even greater threat to food security.

With the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic underway, farmers in East Africa are struggling to defend their crops from the locust swarm while trying to avoid infection.  

While some farmers in Kenya have taken to banging pots and pans to scare the locusts away, most have no choice but to watch as their crops are destroyed.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) called the locust outbreak "an unprecedented threat" to food security in an assessment on Wednesday since the emergence of the swarm coincides with the beginning of harvest season.

"The current situation in East Africa remains extremely alarming as hopper bands and an increasing number of new swarms form in northern and central Kenya, southern Ethiopia, and Somalia," the assessment said.

Due to heavy rains in late March, the swarm will most likely remain in the region, laying eggs that will eventually form another swarm in July. 

A swarm of desert locusts can eat enough crops to feed up to 35,000 people per day. They can also travel around 90 miles a day.

As soon as the locusts arrive, they devour anything green. In Uganda, they have already destroyed some crop fields and vegetation. 

While aerial pesticide spraying is underway to try to control the locust outbreak, Ugandan authorities are currently unable to import enough pesticides from Japan due to international cargo shipment disruptions. 

Ethiopia is also struggling to keep the locusts at bay. If the infestation is not controlled quickly, the region will experience large-scale crop failure, threatening the lives of nearly 6 million people.


Defeat Poverty

Second Wave of Locusts Threatens Food Security in East Africa

By Catherine Caruso