The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has confidence in Kenya’s capacity to deal with a looming second wave of locusts’ invasion.
The newly-appointed FAO Representative to Kenya, Carla Elisa Luis Mucavi, said this at Kilimo House, Nairobi when she paid Agriculture CS Peter Munya a courtesy call, as she assumed her duties at the end of a two-week quarantine.
The Cabinet Secretary, engaged the new Country Representative on ongoing early control operations to address the expected second invasion of desert locust swarms.
“A technical team from both the Ministry and FAO begin a two-week mission to coordinate preparedness and control efforts in affected counties, and in partnership with the Council of Governors,” he said.
According to the UN agency, important and widespread breeding continues in eastern Ethiopia and central Somalia, where new swarms are expected to start forming in early December and move south to Kenya by mid-December.
The Kenya Defence Forces have been engaged by the Ministry and trained by FAO to support spraying in affected regions of the country, a strategy that has been lauded as effective and efficient.
FAO promised to provide a helicopter to supplement the KDF fleet in readiness to minimise the impact of the locusts during the current planting season.
The National Treasury reports that improved performance of agriculture, forestry, and fishing activities have cushioned the national economy from further decline after contracting 5.7 per cent as of June 2020.
The decline in growth was occasioned by shocks caused by the Covid-19 restriction measures, locust invasion, and flooding in parts of the country
The agriculture sector’s contribution to GDP growth was at 1.5 percentage points in the second quarter of 2020 compared to 0.7 percentage points over the same period in 2019.
The FAO Representative commended the Agriculture ministry for a “well-structured and well-coordinated approach” in responding to the food security threat posed by the locust invasion.
“I am confident that Kenya is better prepared to manage the second invasion, given the systems in place and capacity already built nation-wide,” she said.
Ms Mucavi, who was previously at the helm of the FAO Liaison Office at the UN Headquarters in New York, is also the first woman to hold the position of FAO Representative to Kenya.
The Mozambique national succeeds Dr Heslon Gabriel Rugalema, who is now the head of Eastern and Southern Africa at the World Vegetable Center.
She takes office at a time when the agriculture sector is in the spotlight, as the country’s highest foreign exchange earner, with global travel restrictions adversely affecting the tourism sector.
The Kenyan government, in its 2020/21 budget allocated Sh1.3 billion to enhance the resilience of pastoral communities as they battle the locust invasion. This allocation is meant to support and sustain the farming communities as they employ thousands of workers in the agricultural sector.
Acknowledging the support FAO has provided to the country so far, Munya called on the agency to increase its financial and technical contribution to complement the government’s efforts.
A food Security War Room and Locusts Control Coordination Unit set up by the Ministry of Agriculture earlier in the year continues to provide early warning and inform the government on mitigation measures to keep the impact of the locusts on food security and livelihoods to the minimum.