How swarms of locusts in Kenya are destroying crops and leaving farmers helpless

  • Video report by ITV News Senior International Correspondent John Irvine

Everyone we talked to was scared when they first saw them because they didn’t know what they were.

Swarms of locusts haven't been seen in Kenya for more than 70 years.

The first indication we were close to one of the insect clouds was noise - the sound of local people beating pots and pans in an attempt to chase the ravenous locusts away.

And then we saw the swirling yellow mass of millions of locusts. Any response to the clanging noises was short-lived.

They would fly a short distance, settle on the ground once again - and then they started eating.

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They can consume their own body weight each and every day.

And when they were satisfied they would fly on to pastures new. They can travel up to 80 miles a day.

In West Pokot near the Uganda border we were shown the situation on the ground by the charity Action Against Hunger, which is concerned what we witnessed is the beginning of a food shortage crisis.

Salome Tsindori said the next generation of locusts would soon hatch and that if something wasn't done they would eat the crops being planted ahead of the rainy season, which starts next month.

Unfortunately the locusts seem to like to eat the same fruit and vegetables we do.

Mama Charito is a farmer and a mother-of-two. Earlier this month she watched locusts eat the flowers on her mango trees. No flowers means no fruit.

She said she had lost half this year's harvest, the income from which she depended on to clothe her children and pay for their schooling.

Farmer Mama Charito said she watched locusts eat the crops she grows. Credit: ITV News

On the farm next door, Gladys Lomeri, a mother-of-seven, lost all the sweet potato plants she was cultivating.

The locusts are thriving because it's been unseasonably wet. Cyclones coming off the Indian Ocean have made East Africa lush and a perfect environment for locust proliferation.

Gladys told John Irvine she tried to scare the locusts away but they kept on coming back. Credit: ITV News

The swarms originated in Saudi Arabia's Empty Quarter, which again got unexpected rainfall.

Then the locusts made their way through Yemen and Somalia, where, because of ongoing conflicts, they weren’t combatted with pesticides.

There has been spraying in Ethiopia and Kenya, but right now it's looking like too little, too late.