Credit New Vision
Experts have warned that Uganda is at risk of being attacked by other swarms of desert locusts that are likely to enter the country through Mbale.
Uganda registered the second attack of desert locusts last year in February after a period of over 70 years. The destructive insects invaded the country through Amudat in the Karamoja region.
Evarist Magara, the country manager of the Desert Locust Control Organisation for East Africa revealed on Friday that the locusts laid eggs in Kenya last year, hatched, and now Kenya has swarms of about fifty million and above.
“Whereas Uganda would normally get an invasion from Ethiopia and Somalia through Kenya, we shall now be getting a locust invasion from our neighbour Kenya and that requires us to be very alert,” Magara said.
Magara was speaking in Soroti on Friday at the handover of items for monitoring and fighting locusts to the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry, and Fisheries from the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) and JICA.
The items included three vehicles, mobile storage units, surveillance kits, personal protective equipment, spray pumps, and 22 motorcycles to support the desert locust control efforts.
The items cost $11m according to FAO representative to Uganda Antonio Querido who handed the items to the agriculture minister Vincent Ssempijja.
“Previous invasions were moving westwards, now the direction of movement of the locusts tends to be southwards and that means that we are likely to get the invasion coming into Uganda not via Karamoja but via Mbale and Ssese islands,” Magara said.
Turkana according to Magara, has not been favourable ecologically due to the long drought that made it difficult for the insects to breed.
Gen. Sam Kavuma who is commanding the Army unit spraying the locusts said they are more than ready to spring into action once the invasion happens.
Querido noted that damage of crops was registered last year and estimated that by September 2020, 35% of the parishes in the invaded districts of the Karamoja sub-region had been attacked three or more consecutive times.
Besides Karamoja, Teso, Acholi, and Lango were equally affected.
“Households in these regions also reported damage of pasture lands by desert locust swarms, with the most impact reported in Abim, Nabilatuk, and Pader and Napak Districts,” Querido said.
He added that FAO will be delivering 10,500 farming re-engagement packages across Teso and Karamoja sub-regions that include assorted vegetables and cereal high-quality seeds that will be distributed to the identified households starting next week.
“FAO will reach 8,000 vulnerable households with cash assistance packages amounting to sh752,863 worth six months of assistance,” Querido explained.
Sempijja expressed gratitude to FAO and other partners for assistance, stating that Uganda will be more ready to fight locusts without taking time like last year.
It took the government time to swiftly fight locusts since the chemicals, spraying aircraft, and machines were not procured and Uganda had not paid a subscription fee to the Desert Locust Control Organisation.
“As a result, the desert locusts further spread to 26 districts of Karamoja, Teso, Sebei, Bugisu, and Lango sub-regions,” Ssempiija said.
He said that 203 swarms of locusts had settled in Kenya but only 121 were controlled, leaving the balance that posed a threat to Uganda.
Ssempijja noted that the government has set out six contingency plans for containing the situation that includes sensitisation and awareness creation, capacity building for all the stakeholders, and surveillance, monitoring, and mapping of the desert locust spread.
Others are ground control operations and aerial control operations, national coordination, and regional collaborations.