Locust scout tackles swarms with his phone

In Turkana, Kenya's poorest region, Achilo Christopher is battling swarms of locusts, armed only with his phone. He's a locust scout - trained by aid group ACTED with support from the UN and the regional government to track and log information about the swarms, using a new application, E-Locusts. "So I go look for locusts where they are, I report, I take pictures, I upload videos of their movement and also advise them if which kind of control can be used." It's a race against time. In the coming days or weeks, the locusts' bodies will turn from pink to yellow, their wings will harden and, if nothing is done to stop them, they will begin to swarm with disastrous consequences. "Within sometime you just, all the trees are just naked without. Even they go inside the farms, they strip the farms, so it is a very big impact on the food security." That's where the app comes in - aiming to facilitate a rapid response to the swarms. Information from locust scouts is sent in real time to Lodwar -- the largest town in north-western Kenya - where technical teams decide what to do next. Gabriel Okata is a crops officer in Turkana. "That information will guide us in making decision in terms of resource mobilisation and planning for control and surveillance." Desert locust numbers are the worst in three generations and could cost East Africa and Yemen $8.5 billion this year, the World Bank has said. A single square kilometre swarm can eat as much food as 35,000 people and, when airborne, they can travel up to 80 miles in a day. Though now, and thanks to the smartphone-wielding scouts, they may be met with a swift response when they arrive.