The World Bank on Thursday approved a Sh4.5 billion loan to Kenya to help in combating locust swarms that are destroying crops in Eastern Africa.
Kenya will get the concessional 30-year loan from the World Bank alongside Djibouti, Ethiopia and Uganda, pushing the total loan to $129.5 million (Sh138 billion).
Locust numbers exploded late last year, encouraged by unusual weather patterns amplified by climate change, and the swarms spread eastwards from Yemen, with Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia being the hardest hit.
The first invasion that terrorised farmers in a region where 20 million people struggle for food has given birth to a second wave of insects just as the new-season crops are being planted.
“Without immediate intervention, the locust attack could lead to a deterioration in food security towards the end of 2020 and possible rise in food prices,” said World Bank Country Director for Kenya Felipe Jaramillo.
“We are working with other development partners to provide, restore and enhance the livelihoods of affected farmers, pastoralists and vulnerable households that have been affected by the locust attack and are food insecure,” he added.
The loan, which comes with a five-year grace period, will be used for surveillance, and buying pesticides.
The World Bank on Wednesday approved another $1 billion (Sh107 billion) loan for Kenya to help it close a gaping budget deficit and tackle the economic shocks from the coronavirus pandemic.
The budget deficit has swollen to 8.2 percent of GDP in the financial year to the end of June, from an initial forecast of under seven percent, mainly due to reduced tax collection and lost revenue from VAT and income tax cuts imposed to ease the effects of coronavirus on workers and companies.
Kenya is facing the worst desert locust invasion in 70 years, which has affected the already vulnerable northern region of the country.
“We have almost eliminated the locusts and at the moment we are battling them in five counties, having managed to control the rest of the regions that had recorded invasion,” Agriculture Secretary Peter Munya said yesterday.
The World Bank loan comes in a period when coronavirus-linked flight restrictions are hampering efforts to wipe out locust swarms due to lack of supplies.
The curbs have delayed deliveries of pesticides with the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) warning last month that Kenya could run out of pesticides in weeks.
The spread of the coronavirus has forced governments to close their borders, reducing cargo flights and disrupting global supply chains, including the production of pesticides in Europe and Asia.
FAO said it was now looking to secure pesticides from local sources should the delays continue.