Agricultural Disasters: Effective Framework to help farmers affected by the locust invasion

By Faith Obago

Since 2020 kicked off you have probably read many a piece about the ongoing natural crisis, climate crisis or what is now emerging as actually agricultural disasters and what you will realize is but the beginning of a rough road with inadequate effective policies in mitigating future calamities.

Swarms of Locust Invade Farms (c) FAO

As the nation ushers in July, many expected the corona pandemic to have been a forgotten issue. But nothing is back to normal. The social distancing, avoiding handshakes, and regularly washing of hands are some of the new protocols here to stay even as the country recording a total of 6366 COVID -19 positive cases (by the time of writing).

But even as the pandemic war surges on, currently the country is still faced with the desert invasion, with the duty bearers at the Ministry left as mere corona spectators/actors. Since July 2019 religious leaders through the Inter-Religious Council of Kenya raised awareness to the major faith communities in the country of the risks posed by the desert locust’s invasion in the poor Horn of Africa region specifically Kenya, Ethiopia, Somalia, and Djibouti.

For Kenya, this situation has farmers facing food insecurity never recorded in the last decades. Additionally, corruption still haunts the free flow of uncertified agricultural products into the country including the just concluded maize scandal at the National Cereal and Produce Board involving prominent political leader Hon. Waluke.

Currently, in Northern Kenya, branches of trees have been stripped bare of leaves, bending downwards under the weight of voracious young locusts. The young locusts are eating everything in sight in the country’s poorest region.

(c) FAO

With the government still reluctant about whether to declare locust invasion a national disaster, however, having invaded more counties and dangerously advancing to an already bad situation. The grazing area and the farmland are under attack with the residents left to use tiny drums to scare the swarms away.

The slow response and the escalating damages by the locusts worsens the already economically strained country’s focus on its ability, goodwill, and agricultural disaster risk mitigation and preparedness. ‘We trust that the ongoing interfaith dialogues at both county and sub-county level with the farmers on various thematic issues affecting them shall, in the long run, end up informing a policy framework development to protect them losing their livelihoods to the locusts in the coming days.’ reiterated Mr. Anthony Blaize, Program Officer Environment & Climate Change Department at IRCK. ’The people are talking about having policies to seek compensation under such problems just we have known insurance policies during droughts and floods.

Weather variability, price uncertainties, unexpected institutional and policy changes, personal risks, and so on strongly influence decisions on input use, investments, and technology adoption. More importantly, more research and investment is necessary to mitigate and inform the much-needed policy on the administration of agricultural disasters, and more on those occasioned by force majeure.

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