Large swarms of desert locusts have been devastating pasture, crops, and fodder fields in eastern Africa for the last two months. Farmers and herders in Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia and Uganda have been forced to stand by helplessly, as the locusts stripped their fields of everything green.

Living in rural Kenya, Mwikali is one of these farmers. Like many residents in Kenya, Mwikali relies heavily on her 10-acre farm to provide for her family. You can see the sadness in Mwikali’s face as she recounts the events that have suddenly changed her life and that of her family.

“It was Wednesday afternoon on February 5th, 2020 at around 3:30. My husband and I were seated outside our home, after working on the farm all morning. Suddenly we saw a flock of birds resembling eagles flying over our home. This was very unusual, especially this time of the year. Seconds later a large swarm of locusts invaded our farm. There were so many that they looked like a dark cloud in the sky! They quickly descended on our farm. We went into deep shock! We have been farmers here our entire lives. In my 57 years, I have never seen anything like it!

Mwikali and her husband walk through what is left of their fields.
One month ago this field promised a good harvest. Now, it is empty.

Mwikali had planted millet, cow peas, green grams, sorghum, pigeon peas, sweet potatoes, maize, and cotton. She also had set aside a small portion of her farm to grow tomatoes, onions, and watermelons for her family.

Everything was destroyed by the locusts.

“Usually, my crops are ready for harvest on my farm by the end of February. This year I was expecting a good harvest. Now, almost everything is lost.”

Mwikali depends on her crops to feed her family and to pay her children’s school fees. Now she is not sure what she will do. She has no food to feed her family and her three children may be forced to drop out of school.

“At this time of the year, we should be clearing the farm for April rains and cutting sorghum and millet stalks so they can regenerate. But what do we cut? The locusts ate everything. We wake up everyday and try to spray the hoppers. They are a nuisance. We are worried for our health because we don’t know if the pesticides we are applying are safe for our children. We are on our own!”

“The locusts are everywhere, in the farms, in the bushes and even in the rivers. We fetch our drinking water from Kalange river. We scoop into the sand to collect water for our domestic use but now our source is contaminated. It is black and it stinks. We don’t have any treatment methods and we are not even sure if it’s safe for human consumption.”

Mwikali’s chickens are dying. The chickens feed on the locusts and then begin swelling.  They become immobile and die within days.

“Is it the locusts or the pesticides? I have never seen such a disease in poultry in my lifetime.”

Mwikali plans to sell her livestock as the locusts destroyed any fodder for the animals.

There is no pasture to graze my goats and cows.”