ADDIS ABABA – Locusts are now affecting air travel in the Greater Horn of Africa after an Ethiopian Airlines flight destined for Dire Dawa had to abort landing today morning due to a locusts swarm and returned to Addis Ababa.
“Ethiopian Airline B737-700 (ET-ALN) encountered a locust swarm on approach to Dire Dawa Airport (HACR). The pilots aborted the landing and returned to Addis Ababa,” the Ethiopian Airline said in a statement.
The second half of the year 2019 recorded unusually high rains in most parts of Eastern Africa that had not been seen in many years. These rains incidentally fell also in the semi-arid traditional Desert Locusts (Schistocerca gregaria) breeding ecological areas of Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somalia. The favourable conditions facilitated further locusts breeding, multiplication and spread in to Kenya.
Desert Locust is a species of short- horned grasshopper family. It is characterized by its nature of high mobility (migratory) and broad spectrum feeding habits.
Locusts have ability to alter their behavior, colour, size and shape. When the population density is low, locusts behave as individuals, when the population is high, they swarm and migrate. The locust life cycle comprises three stages of egg, hopper and adult and it lives a total of 3 to 6 months.
In solitary phase, the desert Locust lives individual life until it rains with availability of vegetation, the females lay eggs. Desert Locusts usually fly with the wind and swarms can travel between 5-150 km or more a day depending on weather conditions and normally taking off 2-3 hrs after sunrise in warm weather and 4-6 hrs in cool weather.
Locust swarms vary from less than one km2 to several hundred km2. There can be at least 40 to 80 million locusts in each km2 of swarm. Coupled with its amazing ability to build up and multiply to colossal numbers, a locust can eat its own weight in fresh food (about 2 gm/day). Half million locusts weigh about 1 ton and they can eat about 1 ton of food enough to feed 2500 people.
Meanwhile, Kenya’s Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri has admitted that the country is facing a potential food shortage due to the current invasion of the desert locust in some parts of the country.
Last week, Uganda’s Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries said the country needs five billion shillings (US$ 1.4m) to avert a possible invasion of desert locusts. This was after locusts have been detected in six Kenyan counties of Mandera, Marsabit, Wajir, Garissa, Meru and Isiolo which border with Karamoja in the north east of the country.