Uganda Receives New Equipment to Fight Locusts

Uganda through the Ministry of Agriculture Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF) has received a donation of four double cabin vehicles with mounted spray equipment, ten motorized sprayers and ten knapsack sprayers from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). The equipment will be used to fight against desert locusts that invaded the country five weeks ago.

The information from ministry of agriculture indicates that a swarm of locusts spreading 6 square kilometers was observed on March 12, in Masike, Kangole town council in Karamoja sub-region.

MAAIF and FAO officials inspecting donated equipment PHOTO BY GSA

According to Pius Wakabi the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture, control measures were undertaken by UPDF which suppressed the swarm. He intimated that other reports of locust-hatching in Amudat and Nakapiripiriti have been proved to be false. It is also not clear whether there are more locusts expected to get into the country during this season.

During a hand-over ceremony held at the Agriculture Ministry headquarters in Entebbe, FAO also donated 100 assorted protective gear including helmets, overalls, safety goggles, gumboots among others.

Government has so far procured and dispatched 500 motorized spray pumps and 2000 Knapsack spray pumps with an assortment of protective equipment according to Pius Wakabi the permanent secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture.

“Government has far mobilized Sh22b from its treasury and various development partners have come on board to facilitate implementation of desert locust control plan,” explained Wakabi.

Air craft was also donated by the Bulgarian President to supplement aerial control activities through spraying.

Priya Gujadhur the FAO deputy country representative says, locusts have not caused significant damage to Uganda’s vegetation cover.

She also noted that the situation remains extremely alarming in Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia where widespread breeding is in progress and new swarms are starting to form.

“It is therefore important that Uganda strengthen its surveillance and preparedness effort to manage the desert locust situation,” advised Gujadhur.

Locust eggs generally hatch about two weeks after they were laid. These baby locusts are referred to as “hoppers” or “nymphs.” Over the next month to two months after hatching, the nymph locusts go through five molting stages called “instars.” After the fifth instar, the locust’s wings are fully developed.

However, there are no reports of hatchery or breeding of locusts in Kenya five weeks after they reportedly entered Uganda from the Turkana region in North Western Kenya.

In a bid to increase vigilance on locusts awareness and control, the ministry of Agriculture is training an additional 100 extension officers in addition to the 450 who are already trained in Karamoja and Teso sub-regions in order to build capacity of the key stakeholders in management and control of the spread of locusts.

Some of the donated equipment PHOTOS BY GSA

According to Pius Wakabi the Ministry Permanent Secretary, UGX 11.1 billion was paid as arrears to desert locust control organizations while UGX 2.8 billion has been spent on aerial spraying pesticides and UGX 1.2 billion was spent on pumps. Another UGX 1.3 billion has been paid for UPDF operations as UGX 1.2 billion was spent as operational expenses.

“An additional Sh16.18b is being mobilized from the treasury to enhance UPDF and desert locust control activities, support district local governments control efforts and intensify awareness, surveillance and mapping activities,” explained Wakabi.

About 2,045 UPDF soldiers, 85 Uganda Wildlife Authority staff, 385 extension workers and 450 district local government staff have so far been deployed to curb the spread of locusts. Uganda has also adopted innovative technologies such as elocust3m developed by FAO, in helping to improve early warning.

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