The news headlines may have disappeared but the locust plague has not.
In 2018, an intense cyclone season unleashed rain in the immense sandy desert on the southern Arabian Peninsula. The moist sand and sprouting vegetation provided favorable conditions for the locusts to thrive, with massive swarms spreading to Yemen, Saudi Arabia and Iran. Carried by the wind across the Red Sea, the locusts made landfall on the Horn of Africa in mid-2019 amid perfect conditions for their reproduction: it was one of the wettest years in decades with eight cyclones off East Africa's coast.
The insects started swarming into Kenya in December 2019, triggering the worst locust outbreak the country has experienced in 70 years. Various parts of Kenya were then hit by a second wave of the voracious insects last November. Now, a new generation of locusts is breeding and hatching, threatening farmers who are still reeling from the previous swarms as well as years of droughts and floods.
"We expect the worst if the young hatch in March and April," said Kelvin Shingles, Kenya Country Director for German Agro Action (Deutsche Welthungerhilfe), an aid organization,
"It's not like a fire that you can put out quickly in a couple of days," said Keith Cressman, senior locust forecaster at the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). "It takes months and months, perhaps even years, to bring it under control.